The reigning champions look confident they can take on the experienced and pragmatic Australian side.
where: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Tuesday, November 22, 22:00 KSA, 19:00 GMT
FIFA Ranking: France (4), Australia (38)
Defending champions France are the clear favorites to beat Australia on Tuesday despite losing several key players to injury.
Striker and Ballon d’Or winner this year Karim Benzema was forced to withdraw from the tournament after suffering a muscle tear during training. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, both supporters of the team that won the 2018 World Cup, were unable to travel to Qatar. Christopher Nkunku was forced out of training on Tuesday after being tackled by a team-mate.
Despite these injuries, the French national team is an embarrassment of fortunes, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann expected to helm the French national team in Benzema’s absence. With Pogba and Kante missing, manager Didier Deschamps will likely look to Aurelien Chouamini and Adrien Rabiot to take their places in midfield.
The two teams met at the last World Cup, where France narrowly beat Australia 2-1 in the group stage thanks to an own goal and penalty kick. France will be hoping for a convincing victory this time around. But Australia will look to draw inspiration from their 2018 performance against the eventual winners of the tournament.
This is Australia’s fifth consecutive World Cup appearance. However, they have not yet made it out of the group stage since they reached the last 16 in 2006 with the ‘Golden Generation’, which included players such as Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.
“Australia comes to this tournament with an eclectic group of players: a handful of them have previous World Cup experience, but the majority are in their first ever finals, nine of whom recently represented the under-23 team at the Tokyo Olympics,” says Samantha Lewis. Australian football writer.
However, what the Australian team lacks in experience it makes up for in youth – and perhaps just the desire to challenge France.
Lewis describes Australia’s squad as “full of hungry young players looking at their first big shot on the world stage, which is exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure”.
Australia coach Graham Arnold has been known for his hands-on style of play in recent years. Against France, he will likely count on regular players like Celtic midfielder Aaron Mooy and veteran goalkeeper and captain Matthew Ryan to provide organization and discipline in the face of some of the best footballers on the planet.
Australia also boast talented Cadiz winger Awer Mabil in their ranks, as well as teenager Garang Kowal, who has just signed for Premier League club Newcastle United. The 2022 UEFA Europa League winner and now joining Serie A, Ajden Hrusić appears to be free of injury and will be able to provide a creative spark in midfield.
Lewis says there is little expectation in Australia that their team will beat the blues. Still, she admits to some cautious optimism. “France is not the powerhouse it was four years ago, thanks to a series of early injuries and drama within the camp,” she said. “So there are some loyal fans (myself included) who think they can score a goal or two if France takes as long to warm up in the tournament as they have in the past.”