The Socceroos are on the cusp of advancing to the knockout stages of the World Cup for just the second time in history after a stunning 1-0 victory over Tunisia on Saturday night. Mitch Duke's header in the 23rd minute proved the winning goal as the Aussies produced their first clean sheet at a World Cup since 1974.
Duke's stellar header at Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar gifted his nation just their third victory of all time at the World Cup finals. It means a win or draw against Denmark in their final group game on Thursday morning (AEDT) will send the Socceroos into the knockout stages for just the second time.
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There were wild scenes in Federation Square in Melbourne as thousands of fans celebrated after Duke's goal. Flares were set off and there was a tangle of limbs as parochial Aussies reacted to the incredible moment.
Coach Graham Arnold has told his triumphant Socceroos players not to celebrate yet. But he wants the rest of Australia to go nuts.
Arnold has ordered his players to temper their celebrations after Australia's third win from 18 games at World Cup finals, saying: "I just said to them, no doubt the nation is extremely proud, but we have done nothing.
"You (players) have achieved something we can talk about after the tournament. But we're here to go as far as we can go. I don't want any celebration ... get ready for the next one."
Arnold had a different message for folks back home though, saying: "Fans back at home, it's a moment they'll remember for the rest of their lives ... there will be a few hangovers in the morning." And judging from the scenes at Federation Square there certainly will be.
Scenes from Fed Square ahead of the @Socceroos' must-win match against Tunisia! 🇹🇳 🇦🇺
Watch it LIVE on @SBS and @SBSOnDemand right NOW!
▶: https://t.co/x4hP239AXH#SBSWorldCup #WeAllSpeakFootball pic.twitter.com/YxRuKIkxcA
— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) November 26, 2022
After losing 4-1 to France in their opening game, the Socceroos banked a crucial three points against Tunisia that sees them sit in second place in their group. The top two teams in each group will advance.
In the 23rd minute, Duke met a skimming one-bounce cross, and with a glancing header that belied the degree of difficulty, became just the eighth Socceroo to score at a World Cup. "It's the best moment of my life," he said.
The victory was Australia's first at the finals since downing Serbia in 2010. They also beat Japan in 2006. And the Socceroos kept a clean sheet at a cup for the first time since 1974, chiefly because of Harry Souttar.
In just his third senior game since recovering from a knee reconstruction, Souttar was simply superb with a string of interceptions and blocks.
"We were hanging on for a little bit towards the end ... but I am just so pleased," Souttar said. "When the final whistle went, just the relief - all that hard work we have put in so far and over the qualification stages has come to that."
Aaron Mooy was magnificent in midfield, controlling play with precise passing and a supreme spirit. "It's amazing," he said. "Buzzing for everybody, that it makes them happy. That is the beauty of playing for the national team, especially at a World Cup."
Wingers Craig Goodwin and Mathew Leckie were also influential. "Proud," Leckie said. "But we have got to go again in a few days. Nothing has been done."
Captain Mat Ryan, who made a string of late saves, echoed the theme, saying: "It's what dreams are made of. It's a great feat, what we have done. But we're hungry for more."
France beat Denmark to give Australia huge boost
Kylian Mbappe later crowned an exhilarating individual performance with two second-half goals to ease champions France into the last 16 of the World Cup as they beat Denmark 2-1. Saturday's victory in their Group D clash at the 974 Stadium means Didier Deschamps' side became the first to qualify for the knockout stage.
France top the group on six points, three ahead of Australia, with the Danes and the Tunisians both on one point. France take on Tunisia and Denmark meet the Socceroos in the final round on Thursday, with the Danes needing a win to rise above Australia.
"The first objective has been achieved," French manager Didier Deschamps said. "This group is strong, solid and wants to achieve great things.
"I'm very happy with the way my players have responded. We are sure to be qualified after two games. It brings peace of mind. We have a strong and solid group of players who want to do great things."
— Harry Kewell (@HarryKewell) November 26, 2022
— Rob Cornthwaite (@robcornthwaite) November 26, 2022
Outstanding Wikipedia work boys. pic.twitter.com/5vCFSpjFa4
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) November 26, 2022
Beyond proud of this Socceroos team, what a performance and what a night for Australian football.
Genuinely can’t believe this.
— Luke Credentino (@Luke_C168) November 26, 2022
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