Australia scrape through next round of Qatar World Cup, Saudis miss out

DOHA, 1 Dec 2022:

Australia stunned Denmark to qualify for the round of 16 for the second time in their history thanks to Mathew Leckie’s brilliant solo goal yesterday.

Leckie was played through on the counter attack with 60 minutes on the clock, turned his defender inside and out before coolly finishing with his left foot to send the Australian players and fans at Al Janoub Stadium wild.

Despite boasting a host of players plying their trade in several of Europe’s top leagues, including Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen, the Danes failed to break down any of their Group D opponents, scoring just once while earning a solitary point from an available nine.

Australia, on the other hand, started the group as many observers’ favourites to finish bottom – but have ridden their luck and taken their chances to secure a spot in the next round.

Tunisia were eliminated from the World Cup despite securing a famous 1-0 win over two-time world champions France.

Having already qualified from Group D, France rested a host of starters, and their stand-ins were inferior to the North Africans for most of the match.

Tunisia opened the scoring in the second half through veteran forward Wahbi Khazri, who drove at the heart of the Les Bleus’ defense to score an excellent goal just before the hour-mark.

The North Africans still needed help from the other match in group D, but Australia’s unlikely win over Denmark consigned Tunisia to third place. Despite the loss, France top the group with six points.

Mexico are out of World Cup 2022 even though they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 to go level on points with second-place Poland in Group C.

El Tri paid for their lack of offence in this year’s tournament, as the Poles grabbed the second round-of-16 berth by virtue of better goal difference.

It was the first time since 1978 that Mexico have failed to make it out of the group stage and coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino stepped down shortly after the final whistle.

“I assume fully the responsibility for this great failure,” he said at the post-match press conference.

Both sides came into the contest at 89,000-seat Lusail Stadium needing a victory to have a chance to qualify for the next round and the Saudis had the edge, leading the still-winless Mexicans on the strength of their stunning 2-1 win over Argentina in the opener.

The Mexicans needed to win by a bigger margin to be sure of advancing and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano added a third goal in the 56th minute, only to see it disallowed for an offside.

Sub Uriel Antuna likewise had a goal chalked off for an offside infraction and five minutes into stoppage time, Salem Al Dawsari clawed back a goal for Saudi, putting an end to Mexico’s hopes.

Argentina blanked Poland 2-0 to move into the knockout stage of World Cup 2022 as Group C winners, setting up a clash with Australia.

Despite losing, the Poles finished second in the group thanks to a better goal difference than Mexico and are headed to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986. They will face defending champions France on Sunday.

Captain Lionel Messi was in the thick of things for Argentina in the match at Doha’s Stadium 974, but the seven-time Ballon d’Or’s best scoring chance was a penalty kick stopped by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who made 11 saves in all.

Argentina’s goals came from youngsters Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez. The other super-striker on the pitch, Robert Lewandowski, was never a factor on a night when Poland conceded 74% possession and were outshot 23-4.

Szczesny had already stopped 5 shots – including Angel Di Maria’s attempt at an Olympic goal – when a VAR review resulted in a penalty for Argentina in the 38th minute after the keeper’s hand came into contact with Messi’s face as the Pole was trying to clear a cross into the box.

Reacting to the penalty call with a wry smile, the Juventus man proceeded to deny Messi from the spot and went on to make three more stops to keep it 0-0 at the break.