Daniel Arzani impresses but Socceroos slack in attack against Denmark
An exceptionally hard-working performance from Australia helped break down a stingy Denmark defence, but a slow start meant that the game finished 1-1, leaving the Socceroos in danger of missing out on the round of 16. Bert van Marwijk's men really needed to capitalise on a strong second half by scoring a winner, but were ultimately let down by their average finishing.
The Socceroos became the first team to score against Denmark in six matches, albeit from a controversial penalty decision courtesy of VAR. There was also plenty to like about Australia's second half performance, as they finally attacked with more vigour and purpose, especially after livewire Daniel Arzani came on.
As they were against France, Australia's central defenders and midfielders were quite timid on the ball, not looking for positive passes often enough early in the game. That wasn't necessarily the reason they conceded a goal after just seven minutes, but it didn't help once playing from behind. There was also a sense that Australia could have pressed even harder and higher up the pitch when Denmark were on the ropes in the final quarter of an hour.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- It was surprising how deep Van Marwijk had his team sit in defence from the opening whistle, when many in Australia expected the Socceroos to be a little more aggressive. Van Marwijk definitely changed that at half time, when the Socceroos dominated, but question marks exist over his decision to bring on Tomi Juric instead of Tim Cahill with so much at stake.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Mat Ryan, 6 -- The Socceroos' keeper was beaten by a brilliant Christian Eriksen strike in the opening minutes, but no fault could be laid at his feet. His distribution was spot on once again, helping to control the tempo and direction of the attack.
DF Aziz Behich, 7 -- Very solid performance from Australia's left-back, who perhaps didn't venture forward as often as he did against Les Bleus, but certainly proved he is the best option at left-back by far.
DF Mark Milligan, 7 -- Solid at the back throughout the game, providing a solid foundation for the Socceroos. Won everything in the air.
DF Trent Sainsbury, 7 -- Another strong performance at the back from Australia's captain-in-waiting, whose recovery positioning and scrambling defence has been exceptional all tournament.
DF Josh Risdon, 7 -- An improved showing to that against France on Saturday, the right-back appeared more comfortable in defence. Had a couple of opportunities to contribute more in attack, but hit a couple of wayward crosses.
MF Aaron Mooy, 8 -- Started the game slightly sluggish, and could have cleared more convincingly prior to Denmark's goal. In the second half, however, Mooy came to life and started to control the game in midfield.
MF Mile Jedinak, 7 -- The skipper again converted from the penalty spot to level the scores in the first half. He was solid as a rock at the base of midfield, winning the ball back and closing down passing angles throughout the 90 minutes.
MF Tom Rogic, 7 -- More involved than he was against France, which is a very positive sign for the Socceroos. However, indecision at crucial moments prevented the playmaker from having an influence on the outcome of the game.
MF Robbie Kruse, 6 -- Looked positive in the 67 minutes he played before being replaced by Arzani, but his touch let him down a couple of times when in dangerous positions.
MF Mathew Leckie, 8 -- The winger made constant threatening runs, getting in behind the Danes on numerous occasions. His dynamism created a great opportunity for Kruse in the first half, while his header won Australia a penalty after deflecting off the arm of Yussuf Poulsen.
FW Andrew Nabbout, 7 -- Worked tirelessly up front, pressing and harrying the Danish defence, particularly in the second half before coming off with a shoulder injury.
MF Daniel Arzani, 8 -- What an impact made by the Melbourne City starlet. The 19-year-old skipped by challenges and created a few excellent opportunities after coming off the bench. All eyes will be on Arzani in Australia's game against Peru, as he must by now be gaining interest from clubs in Europe.
FW Tomi Juric N/R -- The striker just does not look himself since returning from a knee injury. Perhaps he's still not at full fitness, there just appears to be a lack of positional awareness with Juric at the moment.
MF Jackson Irvine, N/R -- Had little impact after coming on in the dying stages.
Rob Brooks writes about Australian football and the A-League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @RobNJBrooks