With a tenacious 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday, Australia revived their hopes of making the last 16 for only the third time in their history.
Mitch Duke, a striker, scored the only goal of the game with a deft header in the first half. After that, Australia held on desperately to silence Tunisia’s fervent fans.
Australia sit second in Gathering D with three focuses from two games, having been very much beaten 4-1 by holders France in their competition opener.
The Socceroos’ final group match is against Denmark, who play France later on Saturday, and the knockout round is near.
Their best World Cup performance came in 2006, when Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, and Mark Viduka led them to the last 16 as well.
Australia, led by Graham Arnold, do not have players of that caliber, but they have a lot of heart and kicked off to loud cheers in front of 42,000 people at Al Janoub Stadium, where their fans were significantly outnumbered.
The throbbing ranks of Tunisia’s bouncing, bellowing, and flag-waving supporters whistled at every Australia touch.
Prior to this, Australia had only won two World Cup matches and qualified for the tournament via playoff.
However, they had a better start against a Tunisian team that had held Denmark to a scoreless draw in their opening match and wanted to reach the knockout stage for the first time.
In Australia, the match was broadcast on primetime Saturday night television, and viewers witnessed their tough team dominate the first 15 minutes without firing a shot.
In the 19th minute, Tunisia had their first chance at goal, but captain Youssef Msakni was forced off the field, and defender Mohamed Drager scored.
Australia took the lead they deserved from their possession in the 23rd minute.
Craig Goodwin, who scored the first goal in the loss to France, crossed from the left, and the ball bounced around, allowing Duke to head the ball back over his shoulder and into the net.
When he was bundled over on the half-hour mark, the 31-year-old center forward from Japan exchanged irate remarks with the Tunisian bench.
With Manchester United teen Hannibal Mejbri, the skirmish came to a close with a handshake.
Another English-based player, protector Harry Souttar of Stir up City, made a gallant last-ditch block from the risky Msakni as half-time drew closer.