As World Cup drama goes, it was a remarkable couple of minutes. A last stand by Tunisia. A late goal by France. A lead lost. A result overturned. And then a video review, and it all flipped back in a moment.
And none of it mattered.
Tunisia went out of the World Cup on Wednesday in the strangest of circumstances: victors over France, 1-0, when a late French equalizer was disallowed 12 minutes into second-half injury time, but already eliminated a few minutes earlier by Australia’s 1-0 victory against Denmark.
The results of those two games, played out simultaneously in stadiums only six miles apart, settled the standings in Group D: France (6 points) edged out Australia (6) on goal difference, and left Tunisia (4) and Denmark (1) packing their bags.
Australia’s moment was a rare soccer success for its men’s team: The first time it has advanced to the knockout round since 2006, which was the only previous time it survived the group stage.
Its goal came in a blur: Breaking out after a Denmark attack fizzled, Mathew Leckie took a pass near the center circle, swept around a Danish defender and sent a low shot past Denmark’s diving goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel.
Denmark sent on one attacking option after another to chase the goals it needed to secure its way out of the group, but none of them worked. The World Cup will be remembered as a major failure for the Danes, who reached the semifinals in the 2020 European Championship but managed only a single point — from a dreary scoreless draw — through three games in Qatar.
Tunisia, meanwhile, had briefly thought it had punched its ticket to the second round on Wahbi Khazri’s slaloming goal in the 58th minute. But before its fans had finished celebrating, Leckie scored for Australia, and only a goal by the Danes could save the Tunisians. It never came.
Tunisia’s exit was confirmed when Australia’s game went final, and its disappointment was doubled minutes later when an Antoine Griezmann goal appeared to rob it of even the consolation prize of a final victory.
But after a pause and a video review, Griezmann’s goal was disallowed because he had been offside in the buildup. Suddenly the Tunisians’ lead had been restored. Their fans, crushed moments earlier by the news of their team’s World Cup exit, burst into cheers at the news that they would at least go out a winner.
It wasn’t what any of them would have wanted. But after a five-minute emotional journey in which they had been eliminated, robbed of a win and then handed it back, that prize felt like a moral victory.