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5 things on World Cup, Day 11: Wizards of Oz, sad Arabian night

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 1/12/2022 Frankie D'Cruz
Mathew Leckie scoring the winner for Australia against Denmark. (AP pic) © Provided by Free Malaysia Today Mathew Leckie scoring the winner for Australia against Denmark. (AP pic)

1. Wizards of Oz

By claiming a big scalp, the Socceroos prospered once again at a World Cup, making a significant potential impact on the sport in Australia.

With the 1-0 win against Denmark, Australia made the last 16 and now have the opportunity to match the achievements of their 2006 World Cup heroes and influence a whole new generation of aspiring footballers.

Sixteen years ago, three late goals – Tim Cahill (2) and John Aloisi – against Japan, and another late Harry Kewell goal that secured a 2-2 draw and a last 16 spot, left an indelible mark on the Socceroos’ psyche.

But since then, it has been a lean few years for Australian football: few players are breaking through into any of Europe’s top five leagues; the development pipeline has dried up; and the Socceroos have lost their popularity.

Mathew Leckie’s goal on the hour mark yesterday meant putting the game on the map a bit more back home. His winner, which according to coach Graham Arnold was a critical and emotional moment in Australia’s World Cup history, came 120 seconds after news of Tunisia taking a shock lead against France filtered through.

While Australia came together with a lot of belief and hard work, dreary Denmark, who had most of the ball, barely mustered a response, and their exit could prompt a big change in the squad.

2. Why didn’t Mexico play like that earlier?

Mexico were up 2-0 and one more goal would have taken them through – on goals scored.

There was a third goal in the 95th minute but it was a sucker-punch from Saudi Arabia.

Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny’s first half penalty save from Lionel Messi in the other crunch clash at the same time was also a hammer blow for Mexico.

Finally, the Polish edged their way into second place ahead of Mexico on goal difference, marking the end of an era for El Tri who have been in the last 16 in each of the previous seven World Cups.

It was exhilarating stuff from Mexico and one wonders why they did not play like that in their earlier games in which they failed to score a single goal.

Miracle-makers Saudi Arabia, who shocked Argentina – and the world – by beating them in their opener, looked dead and buried. They’d offered nothing.

Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri celebrating after his goal against France. (AP pic) © Provided by Free Malaysia Today Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri celebrating after his goal against France. (AP pic)

3. An incredible victory in vain

This was a cruel yet honourable exit for Tunisia who suffered a heartbreaking elimination despite their famous 1-0 win over a heavily rotated France side.

Tunisia, six of whose XI were born in France, including match winner Wahbi Khazri, played with no fear against the world champions. They were the more coherent despite making five changes themselves.

They had hoped the result between Denmark and Australia would go their way. It didn’t, and almost had their famous win snatched away from them following Antoine Griezmann’s late volley.

Griezmann’s silly penguin celebration came to an abrupt end when VAR ruled out his strike for offside. Actually, France’s much-changed side deserved nothing.

Until Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele were all on the pitch, France were woeful. It says little for the stand-ins in Didier Deschamps’ squad, and rivals will look to exploit their ineffectiveness.

4. A very poor and lucky Polish team

Poland didn’t even try to win. They squeaked through and we nearly had the situation where they qualified owing to receiving fewer yellow cards.

Their display didn’t produce a single thing to cheer about as Argentina dominated from start to finish to romp home 2-0 winners.

The second half was downright embarrassing and depressing from a Polish perspective and if they continue to perform like they did, an easy France win can be expected in the next round.

Poland owe Szczesny for their qualification. He made a string of excellent saves, not least from Messi’s penalty, to keep his team in the tournament.

While Australia’s progression is an inspiring story, Argentina are strong favourites to beat them and reach the last eight.

5. Here’s how the draw is taking shape


Netherlands vs USA

Argentina v Australia


France v Poland

England v Senegal

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