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Eriksen looms as main threat as Australia bid to shape Cup destiny

Updated June 21, 2018

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DENMARK players attend a practice session at the Cosmos Arena on Wednesday.—AFP
DENMARK players attend a practice session at the Cosmos Arena on Wednesday.—AFP

SAMARA: Captain Mile Jedinak said Australia cannot afford to focus solely on dangerman Christian Eriksen when they face Denmark looking for the win that could save their World Cup campaign.

A gut-wrenching 2-1 defeat to France in their Group C opener has left the Socceroos targeting a win on Thursday as they seek to qualify from the group stages.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Eriksen, who scored 11 of Denmark’s goals in qualifying, is the key threat for Age Hareide’s side at the Samara Arena.

But Jedinak, who scored from the penalty spot against France, says improving on a disciplined performance — which saw Antoine Griezmann hit a VAR (Video Assistant Referee)-assisted penalty before an Aziz Behich own goal in the dying minutes — is also key for Australia.

“We know he [Eriksen] is a fantastic player and obviously he’s got a huge role to play for them,” said Jedinak. “But we’re not trying to focus on that. We’ll definitely focus on them as whole and as a collective. We have to worry about ourselves as well, and how we’re going to implement our style on them.”

A solid defensive display against France won Australia plaudits but Bert van Marwijk’s men are on the ropes.

And with the psychological advantage of a 1-0 win over Peru from their opening game, in which goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel produced a string of fine saves to deny the South Americans, the Danes can afford to be more flexible with their strategy.

Australia, on the other hand, showed little attacking threat against France, their best opportunity coming from a deflected header that had goalkeeper Hugo Lloris scrambling to save early on.

Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter, will prove another formidable obstacle to Australia’s plans.

Kasper has already beaten his father’s record for the longest time without conceding a goal — 534 minutes to Peter’s 470.

And against Australia, he will look to extend that streak.

“Nothing surprises me about him anymore. He has conducted his whole career so well,” said Peter Schmeichel, in comments made in his role as television pundit.

Australia’s Trent Sainsbury, too, impressed on his World Cup opener against the French.

And the Jiangsu Suning defender, 26, believes Australian confidence is ‘still running high’.

“I don’t think that’s going to change until the last game against Peru,” said Sainsbury, whose strong performance against France saw several clubs contact his agent on the telephone before the first half was even over. “The biggest thing for us is that we know we can do better, that’s the biggest confidence boost that we need.”

Lacking attacking options in Kazan, Australian fans will hope Van Marwijk bends to popular demand to give 19-year-old starlet Daniel Arzani his full debut, having come off the bench against France.

“I feel like I’m ready,” said Arzani, who scored his first goal against Hungary last month. If you’re going into the game and it’s a must-win, the only logical solution is to make sure you’re attacking more and creating more chances.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018

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