Graham Arnold's telling response after Socceroos advance at World Cup

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold celebrates after the win against Denmark.
Despite the celebrations at the full-time whistle, Graham Arnold says the Socceroos must remain focused ahead of their clash with Argentina. (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)

After masterminding the Socceroos' greatest triumph at the FIFA World Cup, Graham Arnold was resolute in believing the job wasn't over. The 59-year-old was determined to get the message across after full-time against Denmark that the Socceroos couldn't afford to celebrate after making the top-16.

The Socceroos erupted on the field at the final whistle having prevailed 1-0 against Denmark to proceed beyond the group stage for the first time since 2006. Matthew Leckie's strike in the 60th minute put the Socceroos up against the Danes, who had threatened to score for much of the first half.

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Arnold, who was an assistant on the 2006 Socceroos under Guus Hiddink who last made the top 16, was determined to have his side at maximum focus for their next clash, against heavyweights Argentina. He became the first Australian-born coach to register a World Cup win in the previous clash against Tunisia, and doubled his tally against Denmark.

“No celebrations,” he stated after the game. “As I said to the boys, that’s why we celebrated after a great win against Tunisia. No celebrations, no emotion. Sleep. No social media.”

Leckie, arguably Australia's best World Cup performer over his three tournaments, entered football folklore with the match-winner at Al Janoub Stadium. The stalwart, played into space by Riley McGree, broke an hour-long deadlock with his own Danish slice - he ran, teased and then turned his marker after gathering 30 metres from goal.

First to his right, then onto his left, Leckie twisted and turned and fired a low left-footer to spark jubilation.

“Just so proud of the effort by the boys. Short turnaround but their effort was incredible," Arnold said. “[It took] a lot of belief, a lot of hard work. These boys come in with a great mindset. We’ve been working on this for four and a half years. We have the belief, the energy and the focus. I could see in their eyes that they were ready tonight.”

Socceroos too good for Denmark in historic World Cup triumph

In the simultaneous game in Australia's group, outsiders Tunisia had scored just three minutes earlier against holders France, who rested almost their entire first-choice side.

The Tunisian goal - they would ultimately win 1-0 - momentarily lifted them to second in the group behind the French only for Leckie to restore the Socceroos into that prized slot. Defender Milos Degenek was informed by sideline staff of the Tunisia score and, while the Australians celebrated Leckie's rapid retort, told his teammates. They did not believe him.

"The boys thought it was my psyching them up so we won't lose," Degenek said. "But it was actually me being serious."

Leckie and his captain Mat Ryan, barring injury, will break the Australian record for most cup games in the knockout encounter. Against the Danes, the duo both made their ninth cup appearance, equalling Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano's record.

Matthew Leckie, left, roars after scoring for the Socceroos against Denmark at the FIFA World Cup.
Matthew Leckie score the goal that put the Socceroos into the World Cup round of 16 for the first time since 2006. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

"We're an ambitious group," Ryan said. "While everyone is enjoying the victory post-match out on the pitch but the comments are already coming out - we're not done yet.

"We want to keep going, we want to make this chapter as special as can be. We have got that belief ... we're riding a wave."

The Socceroos were instantly aware of the wider ramifications for their sport in Australia, hoping they inspired yet another generation - just as the 2006 version did for them.

"Hopefully it's making other kids fall in love with it," influential midfielder Aaron Mooy said. "That's what the Socceroos have always done, inspire the next generation. And all the kids back home will be watching and see that we won and probably say 'I want to be a footballer'."

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.

With AAP

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