Denmark 1 Australia 1: Honours even in World Cup as VAR controversy continues
A goal of supreme quality and a goal of supreme controversy kept the scores level between Denmark and Australia in the first of Group E’s second round of fixtures.This World Cup has seen VAR take the headlines, with a mostly smooth introduction to the international tournament. There has been controversy over whether interventions should have been made – see repeated fouls on Harry Kane – but most would say the decisions made by the system have largely been correct.
This match marked the first time a decision was jarringly reversed for incorrect reasons, granting Australia a penalty duly converted by the unflappable Mile Jedinak. Denmark may feel hard done by, having arguably had the better chances and greater control of the game. Australia will feel happy to get a point but frustrated they couldn’t snatch more from a haphazard Danish defence – and worried that they now need to win against a lively Peru side to stand any chance of getting out of the group.
Fans of the Socceroos would have felt hard done by with the decision to award Antoine Griezmann a penalty last week. They’ve now benefited from a very harsh decision made via VAR. When Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz was beckoned to the sideline screen to review the handball, it was entirely wrong. According to the Ifab handbook, VAR footage can be used to review that a penalty kick was not awarded. However, for a penalty to occur for handball, it needs to involve “a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm”. The header by Matthew Leckie into Yussuf Poulsen’s arm, as both competed for an aerial ball, cannot seriously be considered a deliberate attempt to handle the ball.
Poulsen’s arms rose as you would to jump for a ball in the air and he had no time whatsoever to react to the header. The decision to overturn Lahoz’s initial instinct to leave the ball-to-hand unpunished was very harsh on Poulsen, who has now given away two penalties in the tournament. Denmark can play through teams Nicolai Jorgensen’s chipped layoff over his shoulder into the path of Christian Eriksen was a thing of supreme beauty, Eriksen’s finish was the cherry on the cake.
Denmark kicked off the game in fantastic style, working the ball into a great shooting position from which Eriksen thundered home an assured strike. Many more opportunities came to them later in the game, but Denmark’s twinkle had disappeared. Jorgensen will feel he should have done better with a first-half header from close range. The Danes showed a tactical adaptability to play through teams with neat passes, or break on them wide with vicious balls into the box. They’ll rightly rue the chances they squandered. Their defence was somewhat less assured at times, but there’s plenty there to be optimistic about.
Nabbout is a loss for the Socceroos. When Nabbout went off with a shoulder injury in the 72nd minute his pain was immediate and palpable, and Australia will be hoping he is not out for their final match against Peru. His link-up play with Rogic was eye-catching and effective, both looked like the livewire creative influences Australia needed in attack. It now looks increasingly unlikely that Australia will make it out of the group – they could have used his industry.
Both teams need shooting practice Denmark only put four of their nine shots on target, Australia landed four from 12. Those are both pretty poor rates of return. Christian Eriksen’s effort was sublime, but was the exception in a match of wild shots and poor composure. Pione Sisto curled a long ranger close to the post for Denmark, in an ambitious attempt which can probably be forgiven – but Jorgensen’s missed header and Leckie’s loose touch in the box to waste chances are not acceptable on this stage.
The final passes were more often than not, ok. What’s lacking is a bit of composure from both sides, who may find that the difference between themselves and the elite teams in this competition. Rogic is central to everything the Socceroos do The Celtic man was sublime with the ball, offering dangerous interplay and creativity on the ball. His ability to retain the ball in close quarters and skip out of Danish tackles was excellent, offering everything Australia wanted from their second striker.
Neither sides played with a high defensive line today, meaning much more of an onus on attacking creativity than wingers and pace – Rogic delivered the former in spades. Australia’s next, and possibly final, opponent Peru are likely to also sit back. Rogic will likely be asked to simply “Do the same again, please”. – inews.co.uk