There are lesser-known names in Australian gold, but Graham Arnold has named an experienced backbone, starting with former Arsenal goalkeeper Mat Ryan, Stoke City midfielder Harry Souttar, Celtic midfielder Aaron Mooy and the combative leading Mitchell Duke.
How this XI threatens such a formidable opponent remains to be seen, but expect set pieces to be important. Souttar (198cm) has scored six goals in his 10 internationals and will be the center of attention when Australia are awarded a corner kick or an attacking free kick.
France’s injury woes are well reported, but without even taking a deep breath: Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Karim Benzema, Rafael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku, Didier Deschamps has designated an impressive starting eleven.
He’s gone for a youthful and attacking 4-2-3-1 set-up with pace to burn. Good luck keeping up with Dembele and Mbappe during the break.
Hello everyone and welcome to the live coverage of the eighth match of the 2022 World Cup France vs Australia from Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah. This Group D clash kicks off at 10pm local time (6am AEDT/7pm GMT).
For the second consecutive tournament, France and Australia open their campaigns against each other. In Kazan, the eventual champions recorded a 2-1 victory four years ago with a late deviated winner. They expect a routine three-pointer tonight.
There will be few more notable mismatches throughout the tournament, at least on paper. France are World Cup holders and 2021 UEFA Nations League winners. Even without some notable absentees, Les Bleus can boast a team as deep and talented as any in the league, with a coach with a long record of service capable of combining a team with proven campaigners and the brightest prospects in the game.
Australia, on the other hand, is ranked 38th by FIFA and needed a 20-match odyssey to qualify, one of which ended in a penalty shootout victory over Peru. Only four members of Graham Arnold’s squad have more than 50 caps (half of the group have 10 caps or less), and only two are signed from clubs in one of Europe’s top five leagues. “I don’t know any of the players individually,” Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté said on Sunday.
France will look to Kylian Mbappé, a multi-million dollar man with proven World Cup pedigree, for inspiration; Australia to Celtic journeyman Aaron Mooy, one of six Scotland-based Socceroos.
“You can say that our players are not playing in the top leagues in the world and all their players are,” Arnold said this week. “But it’s about team spirit, it’s about getting 11 players – and 26 players – together in a family environment, making sure they’re buddies and have each other’s backs. Then you can achieve exceptional results.”
But as guaranteed as the result is, it still has to be earned, and France knows from bitter experience how a World Cup campaign can unravel – especially as defending champions. Besides, it suits Arnold’s character to tap into the “little Aussie warrior” trope. “We have the Aussie DNA,” he said. “We’ll go out there and fight, kick and scratch, do whatever it takes.”
There’s about an hour before kickoff, so feel free to spend that time sending an email. Or, if you haven’t jumped yet, tweet me @JPHowcroft.