Denmark will feel hard done by after a controversial VAR decision earned Australia a penalty and a battling point in a 1-1 draw at the Samara Arena today, but they only have themselves to blame, as this was another uninspiring performance.
The point puts Denmark temporarily top of Group C and leaves Australia’s chances dangling by a thread, and the Red and Whites will most probably be willing France on to beat Peru this afternoon to make their position more secure.
Early Danish dominance ended by a questionable handball
The game opened with Christian Eriksen and Pione Sisto controlling the middle of the field, and just seven minutes into the match, Denmark’s playmaker Christian Eriksen met an exquisite lay-off from Nicolai Jørgensen to smash a sensational half-volley into the back of the Australian net.
In a World Cup where only 36 percent of the goals have been from open play, this Danish bit of football poetry was especially sweet.
VAR to Australia’s rescue
The low percentage has the Video Assistant Referee system to thank, and it duly popped up with the evidence to award Australia a penalty to even the score.
In the 38th minute, an Australian header was point-blank blocked by the outstretched hand of Yussuf Poulsen, the same player who conceded a penalty against Peru, and VAR alerted the referee. In slow motion, most handballs look deliberate, and it’s hard to argue that players can jump that high with their arms at their sides.
Australia’s penalty machine Mile Jedinak duly outfoxed Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, sending the ball one way as Schmeichel dived the other.
Danes walk away thankful
The second half was one of frustration and close calls.
Schmeichel continued to be a dominant presence in the box, blocking an attempt by Matthew Leckie with two minutes to go.
In contrast to the first half, the Australians were the aggressors, and it was the Danes who were on their heels, with Eriksen anonymous. All of Denmark breathed a sigh of relief when the referee finally blew the whistle, interrupting Australia as they were gearing up for yet another attack.
Denmark remain undefeated, but would appear to be missing a Plan B when Eriksen is not dictating the play. With their hardest opponents yet to come, it’s back to the drawing board for Åge Hareide.