Australia have advanced to the knockout rounds of the World Cup for the first time since 2006, with coach Graham Arnold hailing his boys as a new “golden generation.”
They now face a stiff test against one of the tournament favorites in Argentina this Saturday on just three-days rest.
It would have been the safest bet of the tournament, after Australia were thrashed 1-4 by France in the opening match of their 2022 World Cup campaign, to wager their early exit from the tournament in Qatar.
Instead the “Socceroos,” who like the United States come from a country where other sports tend to take priority over soccer in the population, dusted themselves off and put together back to back 1-0 victories to secure their place in the knockout rounds.
At 4-1 odds across most betting lines before the opener, they were considered by most to be the least-likely to advance out of Group D, which consisted of previous World Cup champions France, EURO championship semi-finalists Denmark, and the African Cup of Nations semi-finalists from two years ago, Tunisia.
On Wednesday Australia beat Denmark to finish runners-up with 6 points behind Argentina, and as the first Socceroos squad to ever win two matches at the World Cup.
“I’m just so proud and happy, this is what World Cups are for,” head coach Graham Arnold said at a press conference.
“Maybe we’re talking about a new golden generation now because we’ve been listening and hearing about the golden generation of 2006 that got four points and now we’ve got six, so maybe we’re talking about a new generation.”
Indeed the 2006 squad contained a few names like Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, and Tim Cahill who were playing in the highest levels of the English Premier League.
“There will be some hangovers and some joy with the Australian fans,” continued Arnold. “It’s remarkable.”
The lone goal in the match was scored by Australia’s Mathew Leckie, who ran a third of the length of the field before finishing smartly past Danish keeper Caspar Schmeichel.