Who: Denmark vs Australia, Group D
Where: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Wednesday, November 30, 6pm (15:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Denmark (10), Australia (38)
Denmark had been many people’s dark horses at this World Cup. An unlucky semi-final Euro 2020 exit and a string of impressive results in the build-up to the World Cup, including wins over France in the Nations League, had created a sense of excitement around this Danish team.
However, expectations plummeted as they were bullied and outplayed in patches during their goalless first game against Tunisia. It was a disjointed performance from the Danes, who struggled to get any foothold in the game.
On Saturday, they performed much better against reigning world champions France, who had to rely on their star striker Kylian Mbappé to rescue them. Denmark were unlucky to lose the game 2-1 and will be highly motivated to overcome an Australian side that might be exhausted after their heroic exploits against Tunisia.
The Socceroos lost their first match 4-1 to France but bounced in their second fixture to beat Tunisia 1-0 in a spirited performance full of grit and determination.
The helter-skelter match was brimming with passion from both sides. The majority of the crowd was behind Tunisia, but the Socceroos showed no fear in the intimidating atmosphere. In the end, a Mitchell Duke header separated the two teams and gave Australia an energy-sapping but morale-boosting win.
Denmark will welcome back their stalwart in defence, Simon Kjaer, who missed the game against France through injury. But it’s not all good news. Thomas Delaney has been ruled out for the rest of the World Cup. The Sevilla player has been a cornerstone of the Danish midfield for years providing cover to their defence; he will be missed.
Denmark and Australia have only scored three goals between them over two games, so goals might be at a premium today. Both teams are defensively organised, and for all their talent, Denmark lack a world-class striker. Andreas Cornelius, the F C Copenhagen striker, has failed to get off the mark so far this tournament and missed a gilt-edged chance against Tunisia, inexplicably heading against the post from point-blank range.
The two teams met at the 2018 World Cup, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. A repeat of that outcome would knock Denmark out of the current edition.
Denmark need a win. If Tunisia also win their final game, against France, it will all come down to goal difference, with both the Danes and the Tunisians level on four points.
Australia have an easier path. A win would see them progress to the last 16, but so would a draw if Tunisia lose their match to France.