World Cup Group C: All the pressure on Australia against Denmark
Australia and Denmark face off in a crucial game in Group C on Thursday lunchtime. Two sides from the opposite ends of the world go head-to-head in a fixture that could decide which team makes it through into the knockout phase.
The meeting in Russia is the first competitive match between the pair. They have played three times previously in friendly fixtures. The European side holds the upper hand, having won two of those games, including the last encounter, 2-0, in 2012.
When the draw was made, it looked like a three-team battle to claim second place behind France, with Denmark the front-runners to qualify.
However, Australia put in an extremely positive display despite not picking anything up against the 1998 World Cup winners France. Unfortunately, a debateable VAR penalty and a huge stroke of luck in Paul Pogba's favour proved to be the Socceroos' undoing. They can take plenty of positives from their performance, though.
In Denmark's opening game, they picked up a 1-0 victory against a talented Peru side who showed a real grit and determination. They're certainly in pole position at this point, but their game against France in the final group match could significantly change things; hence why they'll be desperate for another three points here.
Australia, playing in their fourth World Cup in a row, have only once progressed from the group in 2006. Whilst Denmark have reached the last 16 twice. They've even made it to the quarter-finals once; back in 1998.
The game takes place at the Cosmos Arena in Samara, the second game at the venue. The first fixture saw Serbia pick up a slender 1-0 victory over Costa Rica.
FIFA Ranking: 12th
Sitting second in the group, the Danes will know the pressure is on their opponents. A draw in this one wouldn't be an absolute disaster.
They come into the fixture with two injury concerns. William Kuist is definitely out, he could miss the rest of the tournament after the midfielder was stretched off in the 36th minute of the opening game with a rib injury. Andreas Christensen is also a doubt after going off in the final ten minutes. He should be available for selection.
Denmark started their opening game playing in the 4-3-3 formation, with Christian Eriksen in the centre of the pitch, pulling the strings as per usual. He set up the only goal of the game against Peru. No doubt, his teammates will be looking to the Tottenham Hotspur man to be the main creative force once again.
Even their manager has admitted they were lucky to beat Peru; particularly after surviving the South American side missing a penalty. This fixture is huge for the European's. A win here would guarantee their place in the last sixteen.
FIFA Ranking: 36th
The boys from Down Under simply have to win this game. While the opening defeat against France was far from ideal, they still have a shot with two easier matches (on paper at least) to come.
Against Les Bleus, they started in the 4-2-3-1 system with the intention to frustrate. They may well line-up the same way, but this time, trying to be more attack-minded.
The Aussies were unable to create many opportunities from open play which eventually proved to be their undoing. The onus to change that will fall upon the shoulders of both Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic; two incredibly gifted playmakers.
Tomi Juric and Josh Risdon had missed a training session following the France game, but both have since returned to the fold, meaning Australia will have a full squad to choose from.
After France, this group is so finely balanced between the other three sides all vying for qualification. The game itself is more crucial for the Aussies with defeat almost certainly sending them home. Despite picking up the victory last time out, the Danes would have to show a marked improvement in this one, whereas Australia did look good against France.
With that in mind, I'm going for the Socceroos to upset Denmark, winning the match 2-1.