Australia snatched the lifeline of the World Cup on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Tunisia thanks to Mitchell Duke’s first-half goal at the South Stadium.
Australia’s first World Cup win since 2010 saw them temporarily rust in Group D and briefly tied the Australian side for first place with France on three points. (France regained the top spot and secured a place in the last 16, but beat Denmark 2-1 later on Saturday.
Tunisia’s defeat can be crushed. After exiting their second match in a row, they finished last in the group heading into their final group match against defending champions and favorites France to win the tournament. The potential consequences of Saturday’s loss to Australia were clear: After the match, midfielder Ali Abdi was in tears on the pitch.
Just as in the opening match against France, Australia put down the opposition with their first goal. This time it came from the front of Duke in the 23rd minute, when he caught a deflected cross near the penalty spot midway through the first half and curled a shot over his shoulder to give the Socceroos the advantage.
Such a goal was a serious problem for Tunisia, and the Tunisians knew it. They picked up the pace in the second half and applied constant pressure, but failed to score.
When the final whistle blew, the Australian substitutes left the bench and chased after their teammates, creating a horde of collective punches and hugs.
Tunisians mostly stood where they were when the time came: alone in their positions, hands on hips, the end of the World Cup now in sight.
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