Australia manager Graham Arnold urged his players to avoid celebrations and social media after the Socceroos reached the World Cup knockout stage on Wednesday.
Australia earned a place in the round of 16 for the first time since 2006 by defeating Denmark 1-0, courtesy of a second-half strike from Mathew Leckie.
“I’m just so proud of the players, the work ethic, the commitment, the fight, the way they played,” Arnold said. “Denmark are top 10 in the world for a reason, they have high quality players who play in top leagues and defensively I thought we were outstanding tonight.”
Arnold said he repeated the message he gave his players after the 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday: that they had not achieved anything yet, reports Xinhua.
“No celebrations tonight. That’s why we won after a great win against Tunisia,” the 59-year-old said.
“Some teams achieve something and they’re very emotional and stay on social media till 4 or 5 in the morning reading pats on the back. I’ve been around long enough to know that the most important thing is recovery, it’s sleep. Do everything to get ready for the next game.”
The result at the Al Janoub Stadium meant Australia finished second in Group D, behind France on goal difference. Tunisia and Denmark were third and fourth, respectively, with both teams eliminated from the tournament.
Arnold said the Socceroos’ performances in Qatar showed the rising standard of teams in the Asian Football Confederation.
“We were probably the last team everyone in Asia thought would qualify but it shows what you can achieve when you walk on the pitch and have the right mentality. It’s great for Asia,” he said.
“I do believe Asia is getting stronger and stronger. The travelling can make it difficult but Asia is catching up quickly.”
Leckie, who was named man of the match, said he hoped Australia’s impressive showing in Qatar would inspire a new generation of players in his homeland.
“As a young boy you dream big,” the Melbourne City forward said. “Watching the Socceroos play in World Cups could have been the reason why I wanted to be a footballer.
“Moments like these build the game up and inspire kids to maybe become a footballer one day. I always strived to put my head down and work hard, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had a fairly successful career, because of my dedication and fight. Hopefully what happened today inspires other kids,” he added.
The Australian team has been hailed as heroes follwoing the victory.
It marks the second time in history that the men’s national team has progressed to the round of 16 at a World Cup and the Socceroos’ best-ever point tally in the group stage, beating the four points they won in 2006.
The result sparked celebrations across Australia and calls for Prime Minister (PM) Anthony Albanese to declare a public holiday.
Coach Arnold — who was under major pressure to keep the job after failing to qualify for the tournament automatically — compared his team to the “golden generation” side of 2006, which was knocked out by eventual champions Italy.
“Maybe we’re talking about a new golden generation now because we’ve been listening and hearing about the golden generation of 2006, who got four points — and now we’ve got six,” he said.
The Socceroos will play one of the pre-tournament favorites Argentina and superstar Lionel Messi in the round of 16 on Saturday night in Doha.