What a difference a win makes.
After a 4-1 loss against France in the opening game, who would have thought Australia would have its destiny in its own hands for the final game?
Australia’s 1-0 win against Tunisia after a wonder header from Mitchell Duke in the 23rd minute gives the Socceroos real hope of advancing to the knockout stage.
It will still all come down to Australia’s final group game against Denmark on Thursday morning, despite France doing the Socceroos a favour and defeating the Danes 2-1 on Sunday morning.
It was the best possible result for Australia and a win against Denmark will guarantee the Socceroos a spot in the knockout stages.
Here how it all stands so far:
And here’s what the Socceroos need to do on Thursday morning (AEDT) to qualify:
* If the Socceroos defeat Denmark, they are through.
* If the Socceroos draw with Denmark and Tunisia loses to France, they are through.
* If Australia draws with Denmark and Tunisia draws with France, they are through.
* Because of a poorer goal difference, Australia cannot progress if it loses to Denmark.
And data from Nielsen gives Australia the edge in its battle against Denmark.
Its predictions are based on more than a million simulations its runs after each day’s play to make a forecast.
And it’s good news for Socceroos fans.
It gives Australia a 47 per cent chance of making the round of 16, just nudging Denmark on 46 per cent.
It puts Australia ahead of Germany (26 per cent chance) and Mexico (12 per cent).
And if Australia does qualify, Nielsen predicts Australia would face Lionel Messi and Argentina in the first knockout round – otherwise it’d be Poland, Saudi Arabia or Mexico.
But that’s a long way off yet.
Not that Graham Arnold would want to see this data. The Socceroos coach was at pains to say after the Tunisia win that it means nothing if they don’t progress.
He joked in the post-match press conference that he needed five minutes to enjoy the win before focusing on Denmark.
But that five minutes is well and truly over, and the focus is on Denmark.
“Nothing will change for us, we’ll focus on ourselves. We’ll focus on making sure we get ourselves right,” he said.
“I got the players in a circle after the game and said I’m very proud, but we’ve achieved nothing.”
“We’re here to go as far as we can, and that one game is done.”
He said the players were allowed to enjoy the moment with the fans, but then the win was gone.
“I don’t want to see any celebrations (from the players),” he said.
After Australia scored, he went over to his players to get a message to them.
After only holding the lead for 18 minutes against France with an early goal, he didn’t want that to happen again.
“I don’t think, I know, the next five minutes after a goal is scored is so important,” he said.
“You’ve got to continue playing, if you celebrate that goal emotionally, that’s when you can concede.
“It’s about keeping switched on with no celebration at all and going for the second goal straight away.”
Goalscorer Duke – who became just the 8th Australian to score at the men’s World Cup – was confident he could score.
“As a striker you need to have that confidence and believe that you can score in every match,” said Japan-based centre-forward Duke, 31, whose physical presence was a nuisance all game to Tunisia.“I actually was messaging some of my family saying that I was going to score today.”