Qatar, (Reuters) – Australia ended a 16-year wait for a World Cup last-16 place as Mathew Leckie’s strike earned them a gritty 1-0 upset win over Denmark in their final Group D match on Wednesday.
After a goalless first half in which Denmark looked lively and had more possession, Australia scored on the counter in the 60th minute when Leckie got past the Danish defence and twisted into space before slotting the ball home. Australia finished second with six points, level with group winners France after the world champions lost 1-0 to Tunisia. Denmark were bottom on one point with Tunisia third on four.
“I’m proud, exhausted, everything really. It’s hard to describe the emotions right now,” Leckie told Australian broadcaster SBS.
“We always knew we could do it as a group. We had our doubters but our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are as a group shows on the pitch. “The last 15, 20 minutes we battled until the end. It didn’t matter what they threw at us, we weren’t conceding. We’ll make the most of it tonight, but then it’s all about recovery.”
Graham Arnold’s side next face the Group C winners. Poland led the standings after two rounds and they face Argentina later on Wednesday in their final group match.
The Australians reached the knockout rounds for only the second time, having also done so in 2006 when they lost 1-0 to Italy in the last 16.