The Socceroos World Cup campaign is set to get underway when Graham Arnold’s side takes on the reigning champions in their first fixture of the tournament.
Having been pitted against France and made to face them on the opening matchday for the second consecutive World Cup. And having gone close to knocking off Didier Deschamps’ men in Russia back in 2018, going down 2-1 thanks to an Aziz Behich own goal inside the final 10 minutes, the Aussies will be looking to take at least a point the second time round.
Fielding a relatively stronger squad than the one which travelled to Russia in 2018, the Socceroos would be quietly liking their chances with their opponents having lost several key players in the lead-up to their opening match-day.
While the Socceroos aren’t without their own injury concerns with winger Martin Boyle being a late withdraw due to injury, France have suffered a major blow with their star forward and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema ruled out of the tournament due to a thigh injury. They have also lost Christopher Nkuku with the midfielder having injured his knee in the lead up to the tournament with defender Presnel Kimpembe ruled out just days before. They are also without star midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, both of whom arguably the best attacking and defensive midfielders in the world respectively on their day.
And it’s not just on-field issues with are troubling the club, off field there are also issued, the most notable being Kylian Mbappé boycotting a promotional event in protest aover image rights.
Coming up against a weakened French outfit, the Aussies are in a perfect position to record a positive result out of their first game and get their campaign in Doha off to an ideal start.
In addition to the injuries, the Socceroos also have history on their side. France were eliminated in the group stage in 2002 after winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998, and history looks like it could be repeating itself 20 years later.
The three previous defending champions prior to France in Germany, Spain and Italy have all been eliminated at the group stage at the following cup.
They also come in out of form, having won just one of six their past international fixtures including friendlies.
And while it looks like the French are falling, it’s the opposite story for the Socceroos coming into the tie.
With the exception of Boyle, the Socceroos look healthy heading into their opening fixture and come in with form having won five of their past six games.
Having not made it out of the group since 2006, Graham Arnold has made his intentions clear that a pass mark for the Socceroos is to progress to the Round of 16. Something which will be aided with a positive result over France.
Ones to watch
For France, forward Kylian Mbappe will be definitely one to watch, one of the most dangerous forwards in the world when on top of his game, he’ll be one the Socceroos defence will need to be weary of.
Having notched four goals at Russia 2018, and scoring 28 goals in 59 caps for the French, the 23-year-old has proven to be prolific for the national side as he is at club level with PSG.
Fellow forward Antoine Griezmann will be another to watch out for, and having been damaging against the Socceroos in 2018, the Socceroos will be hoping to mitigate his impact this time around.
For the Aussies Jackson Irvine will be one to watch, with the 29-year-old the engine of the Socceroos midfield alongside Aaron Mooy. A hardworking midfielder who pushes hard to create chances while tracking back to regain possession, he’ll play a key role in the Socceroos success.
And while he’s yet to start a professional match, all eyes will be on youngster Garang Kuol, he’ll be looking to impress when given the opportunity.
Skilful, clinical and gifted with blistering pace, the 18-year-old will be out to show why Newcastle United were keen to bring him to England.
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