SAMARA, Russia – It was the breakthrough everyone expected of Christian Eriksen. It just wasn’t the result.
Denmark’s attacking midfielder scored his first goal of the World Cup in the opening minutes against Australia on Thursday, but ultimately the Danes settled for a 1-1 draw.
It was the Tottenham standout’s 17th goal for Denmark in his last 20 international matches.
And it was dramatic, a precise left-footed strike from the center of the box that sailed past the outstretched arms of Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan in the seventh minute.
But then Australia settled in and shut Denmark down. The game-tying goal would be a penalty kick by Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak after a handball called on Yussuf Poulsen that was confirmed by video replay.
“We expected it to be a very tough game and it was. Of course, we got the start we wanted, to be up 1-0 in the first 10 minutes, but then the game changed,” Eriksen said. “But they are a good side, they are at the World Cup for a reason.”
Eriksen had an assist in the opener, a 1-0 victory over Peru. Denmark has four points in Group C, with the team’s final match against France on Tuesday in Moscow.
Following France’s 1-0 victory over Peru in the late group match on Thursday, the French secured a spot in the knockout round while Peru was eliminated. Denmark will advance with a win or draw against France, or a loss or draw for Australia in its final match against Peru.
In four previous World Cups, Denmark has emerged from its group three times, reaching the quarterfinals in 1998. The team missed the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
But Denmark is on a roll now, undefeated in 17 straight matches.
During World Cup qualifying, Eriksen scored 11 goals for the Danes, third-best in Europe behind Poland striker Robert Lewandowski with 16 and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo with 15.
“Christian is a world class player. We are very lucky he is Danish. We’re all quite happy about that,” Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said a day earlier. “His importance to Denmark we have seen all through qualification. He is down to Earth and you wouldn’t think that he was as world class as he is.”
Eriksen, now 26, was the youngest player at the World Cup in South Africa. He now has 79 appearances for the national team with 23 goals.
But his effort wasn’t enough against Australia.
Denmark coach Age Hareide said at times his team appeared tired.
“We lost too many balls, Australia got too many counterattacks. We had to run too much,” Hareide said. “You know what? The World Cup is tough.”
Still, the coach was sure Denmark would get through the group.
“It’s got to be a decisive match in Moscow,” he said, “and I do believe we will advance to the last 16.”
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