World Cup Day 11 recap: Australia stun Denmark to reach knockout stage

Groups C and D provided the entertainment on day eleven of the World Cup as a quartet of tense encounters sorted out their final standings.

In Group D, France were the only team successfully through to the knockout stage. As a result, they fielded a changed side against Tunisia, who were after a win in order to progress.

Contrastingly, Group C was wide open; all four teams could qualify for the round of 16, depending on how either game went. Therefore, Argentina’s game against Poland was a must-win for Lionel Messi and co.

Poland 0-2 Argentina

The Albiceleste secured safe passage through to the round of 16 thanks to a dominating 2-0 victory over Poland.

Needing just a draw to qualify, Poland sat back against their opponents, inviting pressure which Argentina inevitably brought. For instance, Lionel Messi forced a save from Wojciech Szczesny, and Marcos Acuna hit a pair of shots wide.

Late on in the first half, VAR intervened to gift Argentina a very questionable penalty. When reaching for a cross, Szczesny made light contact with Messi’s face, which the referee considered worthy of a pen.

Messi unfortunately could not take this golden opportunity to lead, though. The Argentina captain saw his penalty saved via a brilliant stop from Szczesny. Thus the two sides went in all-square at the break.

But Argentina did not have to wait long to find the net following the interval. A slick passing move eventually saw Nahuel Molina tee up Alexis Mac Allister. The Brighton midfielder duly finished off the chance, scoring his first international goal and putting his country 1-0 up.

Despite falling behind, Poland stuck to their listless game plan, hoping to go through on goal difference. Worryingly for their fans, though, Argentina put their goal difference in jeopardy by scoring a second.

Another extended chain of passes led to Enzo Fernandez flicking the ball through to Julian Alvarez. The young forward seized the chance with aplomb, rifling a shot into the top corner from inside the box.

With this second goal, Argentina cruised through to the final whistle to win 2-0. By winning, they also secured top spot in Group C – avoiding France in the next stage. Meanwhile, Poland had to sweat on the result of Saudi Arabia – Mexico.

Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico

Although Mexico grabbed their first win at the World Cup on day eleven, it was not enough to see them through to the next round.

Knowing that they needed a win, Mexico flew out of the blocks. A flurry of early chances, therefore, called Saudi keeper Mohammed Al-Owais into action on multiple occasions.

Neither side could gain any proper rhythm, though, thanks to a first half littered with fouls.

The game erupted into action following the interval. A low-driven Mexico corner found Cesar Montes, who flicked the ball onwards. Henry Martin then reacted quickest to the flick-on, diverting the ball home and giving Mexico a 1-0 lead.

Just five minutes later, “El Tri” had a second thanks to a stunning free kick. Luis Chavez managed to find the top right corner with his exquisite dead-ball strike, from what seemed like an impossible distance.

This second goal put Group C in an incredible scenario. At that current score, Mexico would exit the World Cup due to having more yellow cards than Poland.

The two countries were tied on points, head-to-head (they drew), goal difference, and goals scored. So, they could only be separated by FIFA fair play rules. Unfortunately for Mexico, they had seven yellow cards, while Poland had just four.

As a result of this, Mexico went in search of another goal in order to leapfrog Poland. Chavez had another free-kick effort saved before Mexico thought they had a crucial third. However, offside ruled out the goal that could have sent them through.

This ultimately did not matter, though, as Saudi Arabia spoiled Mexico’s party in stoppage time. Salem al-Dawsari slotted home a goal to end Mexico’s chances of the knockout phase.

Day eleven’s earlier fixtures, in Group D, saw more World Cup drama unfold.

Australia 1-0 Denmark

Mathew Leckie became the Socceroos’ newest hero as his goal sent Australia through to the last 16 for the first time since 2006.

Both Denmark and Australia went into the match knowing that a win could put them through the group. With this in mind, Denmark started on the front foot. Their changes in attack from the defeat vs France provided a threat, with Mathias Jensen forcing a save from Mat Ryan.

Wing-back Joakim Maehle was also a constant outlet, causing headaches via his runs down Denmark’s left side. But the Danes could not make a breakthrough, even with their dominance in possession.

During the second half, Christian Eriksen squandered a great opportunity when he lifted a free kick high and wide of the Australian goal. The Socceroos, having rarely threatened throughout the match, caught their opponents out minutes later.

Winning the ball back in their box, Australia launched a stinging counterattack, with a set of quick passes sending Mathew Leckie through on goal. Leckie then twisted left and right before guiding a shot into the far bottom corner. Advantage Australia.

Aware that this 1-0 win was all they needed, Australia sat back to defend their slender advantage. And, despite having 13 shots, Denmark could not get past the Socceroos’ determined defence.

So, the Euro 2020 semi-finalists fell at the first hurdle. Meanwhile, Australia get to prepare for a dream knockout tie against the mighty Argentina.

Tunisia 1-0 France

Tunisia provided another World Cup shock on day eleven by defeating reigning champs France yesterday.

France made nine changes to their team for the final group game as they were already through. However, these changes played into the hands of Tunisia. They needed a win to stand a chance of going to the next phase.

Almost immediately, Tunisia signalled their attacking intent. Nader Ghandri turned in a cross from a free kick, but the defender was unfortunately offside.  

Tunisia continued to threaten after their early offside goal, as Wahbi Khazri tested Steve Mandanda with a volley.

The second half began in very much the same manner. Aissa Laidouni also went close, his effort from a tight angle just rising over the bar. Eventually, the African side took a deserved lead.

After winning the ball in midfield, Tunisia found Khazri in a pocket of space. Their No.10 turned and drove at the French defence, beating a man before sliding the ball home.

In response to falling behind, France brought on the cavalry in Griezmann and Mbappe. Then, in injury time, it seemed that substitute Griezmann had taken away a famous Tunisia victory. VAR controversially disallowed his strike, however, due to an offside in the build-up.

Sadly, the win was not enough to see Tunisia through to the round of 16. Contrastingly, France will meet Poland in the next stage.

Group standings after World Cup day eleven

Group C

  1. Argentina: 6pts, +3 GD
  2. Poland: 4pts, 0 GD
  3. Mexico: 4pts, -1 GD
  4. Saudi Arabia: 3pts, -2 GD

Group D

  1. France: 6pts, +3 GD
  2. Australia: 6pts, -1 GD
  3. Tunisia: 4pts, 0 GD
  4. Denmark: 1pt, -2 GD

Featured image credit: Getty