It is happening. Australia are one match away from making the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time since 2006.
On Saturday the Socceroos rescued their Qatar 2022 campaign, beating Tunisia 1-0 to atone for their 4-1 tournament-opening loss to France. But, as Graham Arnold said after Saturday’s historic win, they haven’t “done nothing” yet.
Denmark now await in the third and final group match, which will decide their fate. For the first time in a long time their chances of making the round of 16 are in their own hands. Yet there are still permutations to unpack.
In keeping with World Cup tradition in place to avoid unfair advantage, the final fixtures of each group will kick off simultaneously. France, the defending champions, have confirmed they will finish at the top of Group D. Here’s what you need to know about Australia’s fight for second.
Group D as it stands (points and goal difference)
France: 6 (+4)
Australia: 3 (-2)
Denmark: 1 (-1)
Tunisia: 1 (-1)
The fixtures (both Thursday 2am AEDT)
Tunisia v France
Australia v Denmark
If the Socceroos win
They are through to the round of 16. This is the simplest equation and the one that offers surety regardless of the other result. A defeat of Denmark, coupled with their win over Tunisia, would give Australia a total of six points. That means they would qualify as the second-placed finisher in the group behind France, who have already sealed their progression thanks to their two wins.
If the Socceroos draw
This is more complicated. A draw – which would give them a total of four points and leave Denmark on two – could well do the trick. But Tunisia could make life difficult by beating France, which would bring the Tunisians level with Australia on four points but with a superior goal difference (this is why conceding four goals against France matters). By virtue of the goal difference, Tunisia would advance and the Socceroos finish third.
On paper, France should be all over Tunisia. But Didier Deschamps could rest his best players in preparation for their first knockout match. Watch this space.
If the Socceroos lose
This is decidedly less complicated. A defeat would end their campaign. Denmark would increase their tally to four points and leapfrog Australia.