Australia’s Mitchell Duke celebrates scoring against Tunisia during their Group ‘D’ match. —AFP
Australia’s Mitchell Duke celebrates scoring against Tunisia during their Group ‘D’ match. —AFP

AL WAKRAH: Australia beat Tunisia 1-0 at the Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday to register their first World Cup victory in 12 years as they provisionally moved up to second in Group ‘D’ behind reigning champions France.

Striker Mitchell Duke scored midway through the first half with a glancing header past keeper Aymen Dahmen to give Australia the lead, while Tunisia’s best chance came when skipper Youssef Msakni shot just wide.

The victory, only the third for Australia in six visits to the World Cup finals, was the perfect response to their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of France on Tuesday.

Tunisia made clear their intentions from the start, ranging five defenders and two holding midfielders across the pitch and inviting the Australians to try to break them down.

Australia had some success getting the ball down the flanks but the final ball into the area rarely got anywhere near a blue shirt as the Tunisian defenders wrapped up the Socceroo forwards.

Craig Goodwin’s cross from the left looked to be heading the same way until it took a hefty deflection off a Tunisian defender and looped to Duke, who nodded it into the far right corner of the net.

The goal was the first conceded by Tunisia against any team barring Brazil in their last 11 matches and forced the Tunis­ians out of their defensive shell.

They brought on the squad’s top scorer Wahbi Khazri in the second half as they upped the tempo in search of an equaliser, but the Australian defe­nce stood firm with goalkeeper and skipper Mat Ryan a calming presence at the back. The victory snapped Austr­alia’s seven-match winless run at World Cups since they last picked up three points in a victory over Serbia in 2010.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022

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