Australia beats Tunisia to revive World Cup campaign
AL WAKRAH, Qatar (AP) — Mitchell Duke celebrated scoring Australia's winning goal by forming a "J" with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.
Coach Graham Arnold dragged injured winger Martin Boyle — on crutches — into the celebratory huddle as fans sang merrily along to Men at Work's "Down Under," blaring over the stadium speakers after the final whistle.
Later, Arnold was wiping away tears.
It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, which beat Tunisia 1-0 Saturday at the World Cup.
Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header and Australia went on to register its first win at soccer's biggest event since a victory over Serbia back in 2010.
"I actually was messaging some of my family, saying that I was going to score today, and I told my son that I was going to be able to share this moment with him and get that celebration," Duke said. "I haven't seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me from the stadium, which was a really special moment that I'm going to treasure for the rest of my life."
It was Australia's first shutout at the World Cup since its tournament debut in 1974 and it means the Socceroos still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing to defending champion France 4-1 in their opening match.
Boyle was injured a few weeks before the tournament and Arnold explained why he moved him into the team's staff as "vibe manager" in Qatar.
"To keep all the guys up, because he's one of the most fantastic blokes you'll ever meet," Arnold said. "There was no way he wanted to go home, and no way I wanted to send him home. He deserves it more than anybody for what he did in the qualifying campaign."
In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia will play France and Australia will meet Denmark.
After a scrappy start from both sides, Australia went ahead with a play out of the back from its goalkeeper. Duke collected the goalkeeper's pass near the middle of the field and made a quick touch to set Craig Goodwin down the left flank. Duke then sprinted forward to nod Goodwin's deflected cross into the far corner with his back to the goal.
The score quieted the large contingent of red-clad Tunisia fans among the crowd of 41,823 inside Al Janoub Stadium, and sent the small pockets of Australian supporters dressed in yellow into delirium.
Tunisia impressed when it held European Championship semifinalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in its opener but only occasionally threatened against Australia until the Aussies sat back and defended toward the end.
"The first half we were not efficient," Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri. "The second half we did better but we couldn't convert our chances."
Australia had also gotten off to an early 1-0 lead over France in its opener but then was outplayed in a loss which it blamed on a series of defensive errors.
There were fewer errors this time, and some timely interventions, too — none bigger than a last-gasp sliding clearance from center back Harry Souttar to block Mohamed Drager's dangerous shot shortly before halftime.
Tunisia is still seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time in its sixth World Cup appearance but now needs to beat France.
"This edition of the World Cup has had surprises for everyone, the larger squads have been defeated," Kadri said. "We still have one more match to go and we'll play our hearts out."
During the second half, Tunisia fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag with the words "Free Palestine" printed on it.
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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