Heading into the final set of group stage fixtures, France had already guaranteed their progression and were almost certain to claim first place.
They faced Tunisia, who needed a win against the holders to stand any chance of reaching the next round.
The Eagles of Carthage managed to pull off a shock 1-0 victory, but this wasn’t enough. Australia’s win against Denmark ensured that they took the other qualifying position. As for the Red and Whites, they were knocked out with just one point from three games.
Australia 1-0 Denmark
Denmark were touted by many as dark horses for this tournament. However, their place was under severe threat going into matchday 3, having picked up just one point from their games against Tunisia and France. Nothing less than a win would do.
In contrast, Australia began the day in second place. A win would guarantee their spot in the round of 16, and a draw would also be enough if the other result went their way. Although, a defeat would see them eliminated.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men were on the front foot in the first half. They piled on the pressure in search of the opening goal, but were unable to find a breakthrough.
The Socceroos began to show more threat in the second half and broke the deadlock on the hour mark. Mathew Leckie collected a pass from Riley McGree on the counter-attack, twisted and turned his way into the box, and struck a low effort past Kasper Schmeichel into the bottom corner.
Denmark desperately searched for an equaliser but were unable to find a way past a valiant Australian backline. The closest they came was in the depths of injury time when Andreas Cornelius headed over from Christian Eriksen’s corner.
The win kept Australia in second place in the group, setting up a clash with the winner of Group C in the round of 16.
The result capped off an incredibly disappointing campaign for Denmark, who head home with just one point and one goal.
Tunisia 1-0 France
France went into this game knowing that they were almost certain to top the group. Consequently, manager Didier Deschamps made nine changes to his starting XI, with only Raphael Varane and Aurelien Tchouameni keeping their places.
This gave Tunisia some hope at an unlikely win. They needed three points to keep their dreams alive.
There wasn’t much to report from the first half. The African side thought they had taken the lead early on when Nader Ghandri had volleyed in, but the celebrations were brought to a quick halt by the linesman’s flag.
But they managed to find the opener after the break. Former Sunderland man Wahbi Khazri picked up the ball from deep, surged forward, and coolly rolled the ball into the bottom corner to put his team in front.
Les Bleus sought an equaliser, bringing on Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann. And, right at the death, the latter found the back of the net with a deflected volley. However, after a lengthy VAR check, the goal was ruled out due to an offside in the build-up.
Despite the defeat, France remained at the top of the group. They will face the runners-up of Group C – which could be Argentina depending on the results of tonight’s games.
As for Tunisia, the win wasn’t enough to take them into the top two. Nonetheless, this result was one of the most impressive victories in their history and is sure to be remembered.
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