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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Christian Eriksen the dangerman as Australia bid to shape World Cup destiny

Captain Jedinak says Australia can't focus solely on Denmark playmaker, with Cahill and Arzani vying for selection for Socceroos

Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen, left, and defender Andreas Christensen attend a training session in Vityazevo. AFP
Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen, left, and defender Andreas Christensen attend a training session in Vityazevo. AFP

Mile Jedinak said it would be a mistake for Australia to focus solely on Denmark dangerman Christian Eriksen when the two sides clash in Samara on Thursday, with the Socceroos looking to bounce back after defeat to France in their World Cup opener.

Australia's campaign got off to a losing start on Saturday against the Group C favourites. A piece of Paul Pogba magic via the aid of a huge deflection off Aziz Behich clinched the tie 2-1 after Jedinak's penalty had cancelled out Antoine Griezmann's spot kick.

On the same day at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Eriksen was pulling the strings and supplying the killer pass for Yussuf Yurary Poulsen to settle Denmark's 1-0 win over Peru.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Eriksen, who scored 11 of Denmark's goals in qualifying, is the key threat for Age Hareide's side at the Samara Arena. But Australia captain Jedinak says improving on a disciplined performance against France – which saw Griezmann hit a video assistant referee-assisted penalty, the first in the history of the World Cup – is also key for Australia.

"We know he [Eriksen] is a fantastic player and obviously he's got a huge role to play for them," the Australia captain said.

"But we're not trying to focus on that. We'll definitely focus on them as whole and as a collective. We have to worry about ourselves as well, and how we're going to implement our style on them."

While Australia looked solid in defence against the French, manager Bert van Marwijk will look for a more attacking edge in attack, which could prompt him to go with both the old and the new against Denmark.

There has been much clamouring back home for the Dutchman to unleash veteran Tim Cahill and tyro Daniel Arzani against Denmark if they are to have any hope of reaching the knockout stages.

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The 38-year-old Cahill and Arzani, who at 19 is the youngest player at the tournament, were both left out of Van Marwijk's starting line-up against France.

Former Everton forward Cahill is far and away his country's most prolific international scorer with 50 goals and would be bidding to find the net at a fourth World Cup – providing he can get on the pitch.

Melbourne City youngster Arzani was raised in Khorramabad in western Iran and had barely played any senior A-League football until January.

He made his international debut against Czech Republic earlier this month and scored his first goal against Hungary a week later, while his dream of appearing in Russia was fulfilled when he came on as a late substitute against France.

"I feel like I'm ready," Arzani said. "If you're going into the game and it's a must-win, the only logical solution is to make sure you're attacking more and creating more chances."

Denmark will be without midfielder William Kvist, who sustained suspected fractured ribs in the first half against Peru. He will likely be replaced by Ajax’s Lasse Schone against the Australians.

While Eriksen stole the headlines against Peru, farther back, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel produced a string of fine saves to deny the South Americans.

Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter, will prove another formidable obstacle to Australia's plans.

Kasper has already beaten his father's record for the longest time without conceding a goal – 534 minutes to Peter's 470.

And against Australia, he will look to extend that streak.

"Nothing surprises me about him any more. He has conducted his whole career so well," said Peter Schmeichel, in comments made in his role as television pundit.