SAMARA-Australia captain Mile Jedinak hit a second-half VAR-assisted penalty to secure a 1-1 World Cup draw with Denmark on Thursday that left the Socceroos' last-16 hopes hanging by a thread. Bert van Marwijk's men travelled to Samara needing a win after their unfortunate 2-1 defeat to France in their Group C opener.

Australia battled back impressively after Christian Eriksen's seventh-minute opener but were unable to find a way past Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from open play despite dominating a pulsating second half.

The result leaves Denmark on four points and Australia with just a single point after two games apiece. Tottenham midfielder Eriksen, identified as the dangerman by Australia in the run-up to the game, showed sublime technique to finish after Nicolai Jorgensen's neat lay-off in the area.

Australia's response was impressive but with just one point from two games the Socceroos' chances of advancing in Russia now appear slim.

Eriksen's early opener was a body blow for Australia but they were given a lifeline when an outswinging corner seemed destined for the head of Hertha Berlin winger Mathew Leckie but came off the arm of Yussuf Poulsen.

The Leipzig front man had been Denmark's hero with the matchwinner against Peru but was adjudged to have handled the ball and the referee consulted the Video Assistant Referee system before pointing to the spot.

Jidenak, who had scored a penalty against France, stepped up to fire easily past Schmeichel in the 38th minute. Eriksen's free kick caused mayhem in the box just minutes later, with Mat Ryan collecting in relief after the ball came off the leg of Trent Sainsbury a yard from the goalline. The Socceroos were quickly into their strde after the restart, only for Pione Sisto to curl just wide of Ryan's goal. Yet Australia went on to dominate a second half that saw Aaron Mooy and late substitute Danel Arzani go agonisingly close.

Van Marwijk, who replaced Ange Postecoglou at the helm of the Australian team in January, handed 19-year-old Arzani another chance to impress after a late cameo appearance against France.

With practically his first touch, the teenager set up Huddersfield Town midfielder Mooy for a drive that flashed just wide.

 Andrew Nabbout's game ended prematurely when he fell and suffered what looked like a dislocated shoulder, the Urawa Reds front man replaced by Tomi Juric.

Arzani did well to keep the ball in play and outfox Sisto to fire across the area but the chance went begging. Just minutes before the final whistle the Iranian-born teenager produced an angled strike that forced a great block from Schmeichel.

Disappointed coach Bert van Marwijk said Australia have to find "the last part of the puzzle" if they are to stay in the World Cup. Van Marwijk praised a team that has "improved every day" but bemoaned a lack of clinical finishing after his team missed chances to win the game in the second half in Samara.

"We had chances to win and we deserved to win, so I'm disappointed," the Dutchman said. "I fully agree we should have won. Against France we also deserved more, I think. We have one point and we deserve four points from these two games. The last part of the puzzle is that we must make the difference by scoring one goal more than the opponent. I must be satisfied about all the things we asked of (my players).

From the first day the team has improved every day and they surprised me today again."

Australia must beat Peru on Tuesday to have any chance of going further. In a blow to their hopes, striker Andrew Nabbout looks set to be sidelined for the rest of the World Cup after he injured a shoulder falling awkwardly. "I think the tournament is over for him," van Marwijk said.

 

 

SAMARA: Denmark's midfielder Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Group C match against Australia.–AFP