28/02/2024

A brilliant goal from Mathew Leckie booked Australia's place in the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup. (Photo: Socceroos)

The Socceroos have defied the impossible and qualified for the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup after a Mathew Leckie piece of magic helped Australia claim a 1-0 win over Denmark.

In a match almost identical to the Socceroos’ previous clash, Australia held on to claim a 1-0 win, despite an onslaught in attack from Denmark. In a clash where momentum ebbed and flowed, the Danes took the ascendancy in the opening stages of the encounter.

However, after the opening half an hour, where Denmark dominated possession and maintained the superiority in the contest, Graham Arnold’s side eventually fought back to bring themselves back into the contest.

Australia made it through to half time unscathed and the substitution to bring on Keanu Baccus changed the complexion of the game. Baccus’s energy on and off the ball provided the spark which was needed for the Socceroos, who began to create opportunities.

For two minutes, hearts sunk across Australia as Tunisia took the lead against France, which provisionally relegated the Socceroos to third in the group. However, those concerns were soon quashed when Mathew Leckie ran in behind to score one of the great FIFA World Cup goals for Australia.

Leckie twisted and turned before he finished the shot on his non-preferred left boot to break the deadlock, sparking pandemonium for Socceroos fans across the country just moments after their hearts sank.

Much like the Tunisia game, there was one highlight which will go down in Australian football history. On Saturday night it was Harry Souttar’s tackle, this morning it was Leckie’s individual piece of brilliance to score arguably the second best World Cup goal by a Socceroo, only behind Tim Cahill’s famous volley.

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The final 35 minutes of play was a carbon-copy of the conclusion to the Australia and Tunisia game as the Socceroos gave up possession and sat deep in the hope of holding onto the lead. Just like matchday 2, chances for the Aussies were few and far between and just like the game against Tunisia, Mathew Ryan and the Socceroos defenders withstood countless chances from the opponents.

Denmark dominated possession with 69 per cent of the ball and had a massive 13 shots throughout the contest. Despite the numerous opportunities, Denmark struggled to challenge Ryan in goal and the Australian captain showed his poise throughout.

As the clock ticked down, Australia again, like clockwork held on to keep a clean sheet and claim a famous 1-0 win to spark celebrations reminiscent of what occurred in Stuttgart 16 years ago.

This was the first time in history the Socceroos have won consecutive games at the World Cup and it is the first time they have made the knockout stages since Germany 2006. After a difficult run over the last 12 years, the last few days has proven Australia is a football country, with the wild scenes at Federation Square in the early hours of Thursday morning proof there is a deeply-embedded passion for the sport in this nation.

The last two games have recaptured the imagination the Australia public which had begun to lose the hope which was prevalent during the golden generation. After years of turmoil where the Socceroos have had the odds against them, Arnold’s side has stood tall with its “Aussie DNA” to achieve feats many believed unattainable.

Similar scenes can be expected across Australia on Sunday morning when the Socceroos face the winners of Group C in one of the biggest games in the country’s history. The ramifications this result will have on football in the country is endless, with it fitting that an A-League player scored the decisive goal.

For the Socceroos, the limits are now endless as they have gone from a side which wasn’t taken seriously by opposing nations, to a team which now demands respect from its opponents.

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