Underperforming Denmark punished but resilient Australia do not pose much threat

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According to the official World Cup 2022 guide, Al Janoub Stadium was designed to reflect the "wind-filled sails of Qatar's traditional dhow boats".

The grand stadium, one of the more unique-looking of the eight grounds acting as venues for the tournament, is situated around 22 kilometres south of central Doha, in the coastal city of Al Wakrah.

After the World Cup is over, Al Janoub Stadium will remain in place, though the capacity will be reduced, with seats donated to other sporting projects. The guide claims the facilities surrounding the stadium will ensure a bright future for the area.

That might well be the case, but on Wednesday's evidence, it would be difficult to suggest the immediate futures of either Australia or Denmark are at all bright.

Denmark, the majority pick as the tournament's 'dark horses' after their semi-final run at Euro 2020, went into the match knowing they needed a win to progress from Group D, while Australia could hold out for the draw and, barring Tunisia stunning France (which they went on to do), they would make it to the last 16 at a World Cup for the second time in their history.

For the Danes, a tournament that started with the furore over the OneLove campaign has ended with only one point and one goal scored, and that came from a set-piece.

They finish bottom of the group, and deservedly so.

Dismal Denmark

Against Australia, the early signs were promising. Former Barcelona forward Martin Braithwaite – the third different central striker to start for Denmark in as many games – did well to put Mathias Jensen through, but Mat Ryan (now playing for Copenhagen) stood tall in Australia's goal.

There was plenty of attacking endeavour from both teams in the first half, but a real lack of quality. It is an issue that has plagued Denmark throughout the tournament.

Andreas Cornelius headed against the post from a yard out in an opening 0-0 draw with Tunisia, Kasper Dolberg has not come close to reaching the potential he showed at Ajax and Braithwaite has never been an elite goalscorer. Yussuf Poulsen has not played a single minute.

Jesper Lindstrom has offered glimpses of his talent but is not the finished product, and though Christian Eriksen has created nine chances, he has not been able to wield any consistent influence on matches as a player of his quality should.

The lack of urgency on show from Kasper Hjulmand's side on Wednesday was stark. Though not as stark as the awful defending that, on the hour, enabled Mathew Leckie to isolate Joakim Maehle on the break and slot beyond the despairing Kasper Schmeichel.

Denmark thought they had a lifeline – one they hardly deserved, at that – when Dolberg took a tumble in the penalty area, but the offside flag denied them a spot-kick.

The Danes, who have failed to win their last six World Cup games, were the feel-good story of Euro 2020 after Eriksen's cardiac arrest on the pitch in Copenhagen, and their subsequent efforts in making the last four. Yet they have seriously underperformed in Qatar, and it felt something akin to the end of a cycle for their coach.

Ageing Aussies have spirit, but will that be enough?

Ten of Australia's 16 World Cup goals have been scored by players over 30, including all three of their strikes in Qatar (Leckie got the Socceroos' goal in the 4-1 loss to France, and Mitchell Duke their winner against Tunisia).

In truth, they were not much better than Denmark from an attacking standpoint, but they did enough. Graham Arnold has his team well organised, with Harry Souttar once again brilliant at the back.

Souttar, who chose to represent Australia over Scotland, made a game-leading six clearances, while winning seven of his nine duels, as the Socceroos claimed only their third clean sheet in a World Cup game.

It is just a fourth World Cup win for Australia, who celebrated wildly at the end, and rightly so. They weren't fancied to get out of the group but they have scrapped and tussled their way through in second place.

However, it means Argentina could well be next up, or Poland, depending on the outcome of Wednesday's late games.

Australia will give their all, but as evidenced against France in their opening defeat, their steel probably won't be enough against Lionel Messi or Robert Lewandowski if they are on their game.

Still, on the back of successive clean sheets, Arnold's men just might have a shot of making this their greatest ever World Cup campaign.