The equation is simple for the Socceroos.
Beat Denmark, and a berth in the Round of 16 for the first time in 16 years awaits.
Even a draw is likely to do the business for Graham Arnold and his troops.
But standing in their way is the World No. 10, who boast one of the world’s finest midfielders in their ranks.
Everything must go according to the plan for the Aussies as Arnold looks to etch his own name in national sporting history as the first Australian-born coach to lead the Socceroos to the knockout stages at the World Cup.
Foxsports.com.au previews the crucial Denmark clash in the Socceroos Burning Questions!
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Listen to the podcast below and read on for Slater’s breakdown of the upcoming match!
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TO STICK OR TWIST WITH THE SQUAD SELECTION?
After the 4-1 defeat to France, many in the Australian football community called for Arnold to make changes to his squad.
It was evident the players ran their socks off, even when they were battling to keep the French at bay in the second half.
Yet Arnold only made one change to his squad for the game against Tunisia — Fran Karacic replacing Nathaniel Atkinson — and that was only because the latter was injured.
The gutsy call paid off in dividends as the Socceroos edged past the Eagles of Carthage with a gritty 1-0 win.
Several Aussie stars looked out on their feet in the latter stages of the clash, but no-one came off with any serious injuries.
No doubt there’s some heavy legs in the camp, but does Arnold inject some fresh faces into the lineup?
Not according to Socceroos great Robbie Slater.
“I’m finding it hard anywhere to see any changes,” Slater told the Fox Football Podcast.
“Geez, it’s a big call to leave someone out after a game like that, where everything was near-perfect.
“You’d feel a bit sour if you were getting left out like this.
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“I think Arnie believes in practically his first eleven … You’ve gotta play your best eleven, and for me, the best eleven is the one just played.”
However, if there was to be one change in Arnold’s line-up, Slater believes it would be in the midfield.
“Is Hrustic ready to start,” Slater said.
“I’ve got a feeling he might start … I would start him.
“I think Riley is great, but I think Hrustic is just a level up at the moment — where he plays, he’s played in big games, he played in and won the Europa League final and took a penalty.
“He knows this is big time, this is our biggest match since – Italy was probably a bigger match, but in respect to making it, it’s Croatia (2006) again.”
Another position group fans might point to as one that might need a breather are the forwards: Mat Leckie, Craig Goodwin and Mitchell Duke.
The trio have put in a mountain of work across the two games so far and although Slater knows it’s “taxing” playing in those positions, the carrot of a knockout stage berth should aid the recovery.
“I think that front three stays,” Slater said.
“I know it’s taxing and you’ve got to look at the minutes. But adrenaline, surely, and the prize is so big.”
Slater added: “I don’t think you can change Goodwin or Leckie — unless Leckie is a shot duck after two games. I mean that in a nice way!
“They were my positions I played, you’re a fitness person when you’re playing in that position … they should be able to recover.”
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HAS ARNOLD LEARNED FROM TOKYO TRAGEDY?
Arnold guided the Olyroos – Australia’s under-23s – to the Tokyo Olympics, their first appearance since Beijing 2008 when he was also in charge.
The youngsters pulled off a stunning victory over heavyweights Argentina in the opener, but struggled from there – and in a similar situation to this World Cup, the Olyroos entered the final group game knowing a draw would likely be enough.
On that day, the Aussies lost, their Olympic dream shattered.
Arnold must be feeling a sense of deja vu ahead of the Denmark clash, but with the Olyroos experience in the back pocket, he knows what must be changed if the Aussies are to enjoy a positive outcome.
“That’s why I had the huddle straight after the [Tunisia] game because if there’s one thing I learnt at the Olympics, it was after a big win against Argentina, there was too much celebration,” Arnold said.
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“And that celebration, I’m sorry, is social media. They get on that until four or five in the morning, watch all the great comments and enjoy all that shite if I can say that … it affects players.
“It affects their sleep patterns so if you’re up to five in the morning looking at that, and looking at the good comments and people backing you, the same people are doing it back the day after and it’s killing us, just get rid of it and don’t look at it.”
Slater agreed with the Socceroos boss.
“Maybe we celebrated too early,” Slater said.
“We beat Argentina which was a massive shock. And it didn’t happen from there. I think we’ve just got to enjoy – but not shout too high, not predict too much.
“Just do it the Aussie way, the way Milos Degenek talked about and the other players have talked about – being the underdog. We like that.”
“This is the problem for Arnie and the group. They’ve done something fantastic, but this game comes very quickly!”
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CAN THE AUSSIES KEEP FRANCE VS TUNISIA OUT OF THEIR MINDS?
Much like the final day of the Premier League where all 20 teams kick off at the same time, the Socceroos’ clash against Denmark takes place alongside Tunisia’s fixture against France.
Aussie fans dotted around the Al Janoub Stadium for the game will be glued to their phones, refreshing the result of the latter fixture while they watch the action unfold in front of their eyes.
It’s a gut-wrenching, stomach-turning experience for fans.
But what’s it like for players?
Slater twice played in decisive Premier League games on the last day of the season and admitted it’s not a pleasant time.
“That feeling of playing at the same time and not knowing what’s going on over there, and watching the benches, it’s very unnerving for a footballer,” Slater said.
“You just have to concentrate on your job at hand.”
The Premier League winner also opened up on what he believes Arnie will tell his troops who might be lending some brain space to the Tunisia v France match.
“I know what exactly what he’s gonna say – because he’s said it from forever when he’s coaching … ‘You can’t control things outside of your area,’” Slater said.
“The only thing Arnie can control and his players is their game.”
HOW WILL THE AUSSIES STOP ERIKSEN?
Against Les Bleus, the Aussies learned on the job how to deal with some of the best players in the world.
Although Denmark don’t possess the same levels of star power the French do, they have a distinctive and energetic style of play that is difficult to keep at bay.
Pivotal to that is Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen, a player Slater described as “a magician”.
Sure, Arnold can set his team up to swarm Eriksen in the midfield, but they’d be exposed by the likes of Mikkel Damsgaard and Jesper Lindstrom to name two.
So, what must Arnold do to reduce the collective threat of the Danes?
“I think one thing you have to do is stay compact,” Slater said.
“You need to be compact, so if you’re moving up and down the pitch, it’s got to be together.
“If you get stretched against Denmark, they’ll kill us, like France did.”
The Socceroos face Denmark with kick-off scheduled for 2am Thursday (AEDT).