Wasteful Australia made to pay as Denmark take a draw

Where was Timmy? As Australia badgered the Danish defence, controlling possession and creating promising opportunity after promising opportunity, Australia’s 38-year-old talisman was conspicuously absent. Australia were desperately searching for some kind of inspiration, something that would take them past the Danish and seal a crucial win. Why then, with the game winding down and Australia pushing hard for a goal, was Tim Cahill, the Socceroos’ all-time leading scorer, sitting on the bench wearing an ugly green shirt and a dull brown vest? Bert van Marwijk used Tomi Juric, and the gangly striker got in the way. Jackson Irvine was used, and had no impact. For all of Australia’s efforts, they got a draw.

Australia may have been disappointed with the final result, but they would have taken it gratefully had they been offered it 10 minutes in. Australia started slowly, and went behind when they bungled a defensive clearance, turning the ball over in a vulnerable position. Nicolai Jørgensen received the ball on the edge of the box, and managed to evade Trent Sainsbury before playing a bouncing pass into the centre. It was Christian Eriksen, Denmark’s star playmaker and most dangerous attacking threat, who ran onto the ball in plenty of space. Aziz Behich tried to get there, but he was too far away to make a difference as Eriksen hit an unstoppable side-footed shot into the top corner. Mathew Ryan dived, but the Australian keeper had no chance.

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Pione Sisto (front) leads Matthew Leckie to the ball. Sisto was one of Denmark’s few attacking threats during a poor second half display.

As Denmark continued to control play and stifle most of Australia’s attacks, it seemed like the Socceroos had little chance of breaking down their solid defence. Matthew Leckie found chances, and made a few things happen with his pace down the right wing, but Robbie Kruse’s lack of poise in the attacking third meant such moves broke down on more than one occasion. Then, more through good fortune than anything else, Australia levelled. The goal was almost identical to the one they scored in their game against the French. Like the first game, they won a penalty after a handball in the area (although this one was more controversial), and Mile Jedinak’s shot was almost identical to his spot kick against the French. Kasper Schmeichel obviously hadn’t done his homework, and he flung himself the wrong way. Australia were level at half time as a result, and they looked to go on to better things after the break.

The Socceroos came out after half time and created plenty of trouble for the Danish defence. Early on, Jens Stryger Larsen was forced to head Behich’s dangerous cross away from an onrushing Matthew Leckie. Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic both challenged Schmeichel from distance, with the latter forcing the Danish keeper into making a solid save and the former sending the ball whistling over the bar. Denmark couldn’t attack with any fluency, Eriksen was basically anonymous and Mooy’s creative talents were starting to come to the fore. Australia just needed the finishing touch. They just needed Timmy. When striker Andrew Nabbout dislocated his shoulder, van Marwijk had his chance. A change was made, but it was Juric who came on. Soon after, Leckie had a chance as he attempted a volley. Juric made himself a nuisance, the shot went wide, and it became clear that Australia needed a clinical touch. Where was Timmy?

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Tomi Juric (front) competes with Andreas Christensen. Juric was introduced for Andrew Nabbout in favour of talismanic striker Tim Cahill, and didn’t justify his inclusion.

One Australian substitute did have a big impact, but it just wasn’t enough. Daniel Arzani was introduced with just over 20 minutes left, replacing Kruse after his poor effort on the left wing. After a slightly slow start, the World Cup’s youngest player began to get on the ball, and his impact was immediate. He breezed past Pione Sisto on the right wing with one remarkable touch, and whipped in a cross that, unfortunately for Australia, flew past everyone and out for a throw-in. Then, after getting the ball on the left, he weaved his way into the box and drilled a shot at Schmeichel. For the rest of the match, he provided nuggets like that, receiving licence to roam and dropping into space to cause Denmark plenty of problems. Unfortunately for Australia, the lack of an outlet to finish his chances meant most of the young gun’s best work was unrewarded. As Denmark held on for a draw that massively boosts their progress but seriously jeopardises Australia’s, there was one question on the lips of all Socceroos fans. Where on earth was Timmy?

Samara – Cosmos Arena
Denmark 1 (Eriksen 7)
Australia 1 (Jedinak 38 pen)
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Esp)
Denmark (4-3-3): Schmeichel – Dalsgaard, Kjær, Christensen, Stryger Larsen; Delaney, Schöne, Eriksen; Poulsen (Braithwaite 59), Jørgensen (Cornelius 68), Sisto.
Australia (4-2-3-1): Ryan – Risdon, Sainsbury, Milligan, Behich; Jedinak, Mooy; Leckie, Rogic (Irvine 82), Kruse (Arzani 68); Nabbout (Juric 75).

Top 5
1. Matthew Leckie (Australia)
Leckie was the only Australian who consistently threatened for the entirety of the match, showing pace, strength and skill and making life very difficult for Stryger Larsen at left-back. He put in plenty of dangerous balls, and with better finishing in the box he could have easily finished with an assist or two.
2. Aaron Mooy (Australia)
Mooy grew into the game as it progressed, working well with Jedinak to take control of the midfield and put Denmark under the pump. He was pulling the strings in most of Australia’s second half attacks, and his excellent work both on and off the ball nearly got his team over the line.
3. Pione Sisto (Denmark)
Sisto was one of Denmark’s only real threats in the second half, finding himself space on the break and using his pace to seriously test the Australian defence. He came up with a couple of dangerous efforts from distance, and seemed the only Danish player able to acquit himself well when Eriksen’s input was stifled.
4. Daniel Arzani (Australia)
Arzani is special. He has pace, skill and composure, and lifts his side when he comes on the pitch. He only had 20 minutes to make his mark after replacing the dangerous-looking but ultimately ineffective Kruse, but if his sparkling cameo isn’t enough to justify an elevation into the starting line-up it’s not clear what will be.
5. Aziz Behich (Australia)
Behich found plenty of space overlapping from left-back, putting in dangerous crosses and combining well with Kruse and then Arzani in attack. He managed to have a big attacking input without getting caught out on the break, and he will have a big say in Australia’s eventual finish at this tournament.

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