Denmark were fortunate winners in their World Cup opener whilst Australia suffered a frustrating defeat in which they probably deserved better. As each experienced different emotions to kick off the tournament, Thursday’s matchup expects to be as competitive as their respective openers.
A missed penalty by Peru’s Christian Cueva highlighted the Danes’ 1-0 victory Saturday in their first World Cup since 2010. Outplayed for most of the match, Denmark did enough to prevail and set themselves up nicely for the rest of group play.
Australia gave title contender France all it could handle on Saturday, but a VAR-aided penalty conversion from Antoine Griezmann and a slightly deflected ball into the net off a Paul Pogba strike sent the Socceroos off with a 2-1 loss. That spirited, but essentially wasted effort now leaves Australia with little room for error.
Perhaps hoping technology won’t be a factor Thursday, Australia take on a Denmark side whose defence has been stellar and goalkeeper even better.
Here’s a look at some plotlines to keep in mind for this Group C contest.
1 First father, now son
Along with star midfielder Christian Eriksen, keeper Kasper Schmeichel was somebody Denmark needed to perform well if they were to have success in Russia.
The Danes entered the Saturday's opener riding a 15-match unbeaten streak, and Schmeichel's six saves - three of which were highlight-worthy - helped that run continue and add to the World Cup legacy in his family.
The Leicester City product has also posted five consecutive clean sheets.
His father, Peter, helped Manchester United win the Treble during the 1998-99 season, and was part of Denmark's Euro 1992 title-winning team and the nation's '98 World Cup squad that reached the quarterfinals.
The younger Schmeichel's current international success is making up for a pedestrian Premier League season in which he recorded eight clean sheets (ranked 13th) and made 93 saves (tenth).
2 Will VAR star again?
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has quickly become one of the major storylines through the first week of the World Cup, and that probably should not be a surprise.
Both Australia and Denmark were affected by the technology in their opening matches.
VAR's maiden moment came when referee Andres Cunha took to the camera to eventually call a foul on Australia's Josh Risdon. That sent Griezmann to the spot and France to a 1-0 lead.
The Danes, meanwhile, initially thought they would be the victim of VAR's wrath when it showed Yussuf Poulsen's foul on Cueva right before the half. By now, the result of Cueva's attempt is well known and Poulsen made him pay by scoring the only goal of the game in the 59th minute.
Whilst it's uncertain if VAR will appear in this contest, it's not going away, despite how Aussie coach Bert van Marwijk feels at the moment.
3 Can Jedinak find his spot?
Though the Socceroos weren't happy with Cunha's quickness to turn to the video camera, should they benefit from a similar situation that results in a penalty in this contest, or a spot attempt from any foul called, their chances of converting are better than great with Mile Jedinak ready to do the honours.
Jedinak's conversion Saturday off Samuel Umtiti's blatant handball marked the 15th time in 15 chances that the midfielder successfully converted a penalty in his career.
It almost makes one wonder if Jedinak's strength from the spot can be incorporated into Australia's gameplan.
Schmeichel didn't need to move whilst Cueva's penalty Saturday went clear over the crossbar. He likely must be more active if he and Jedinak come face to face in a similar situation Friday.
4 The rare Danish double
It's been eight years since Denmark last played in the World Cup and 16 since they made it out of the group stage.
But it's been even longer since they won two consecutive matches in the tournament. The last time the Danes pulled off that feat was 1986 in Mexico, when the Preben Elkjær-led squad swept a group that featured Scotland, Uruguay and West Germany.
For all that success in group play, the Danish couldn't carry that success in to the round of 16, where they lost to Spain.
Since that perfect run through the group, and including their most recent win over Peru, Denmark have totaled six World Cup victories.
5 Will Tim Cahill play?
Australian legend Tim Cahill is trying to put his name in the history books by joining Pele, Germans Uwe Seeler, and Miroslav Klose and most recently Cristiano Ronaldo as the only players to score in four World Cups.
First, however, the 38-year-old Cahill actually needs to get in a match. The former Everton man did not play against France, but it's believed he will see action in either of the two remaining group games.
Cahill scored his 50th international goal as part of a brace in a 2-1 second-leg win over Syria that helped the Aussie's reach the inter-confederation playoffs in October.
Cahill's five World Cup goals are the most by any Australian.
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