As the Qatar 2022 World Cup looms ever closer, it’s time to look at the Socceroos Group D opponents and see how they faired in their relative World Cup qualification paths.
In case you’ve missed it, our Socceroos (Rank 34) will face France (4), Tunisia (30), and Denmark (10) with our tournament kicking off against France on Wednesday 23rd of November.
So how did our opponents perform during their qualifiers?
With a win percentage of 90% throughout qualifying, Denmark was by far the most imperious side, notching up an impressive nine wins out of 10 in order to secure direct qualification from the European Group F. Australia tied the second-highest win percentage at 65% with 13 wins in regulation time out of 20, whereas France and Tunisia registered a 62.5% win percentage with both winning five games in eight.
However, the Danes’ superb win ratio may have their qualification draw to thank, with their opponents’ average FIFA ranking of 89 being five higher than the average rank of Tunisia’s opponents (84) and 25 higher than France’s (63). While rankings are an inaccurate science at best, they do provide a solid indicator of where a nation sits globally rather than specific numbers.
What is of note is that the Socceroos faced opponents with the same average rank as Denmark, however, prior to the intercontinental playoff against Peru, the average rank of opposition for the Socceroos was 96. This implies that generally, Australia faced the easiest path to the world cup of any within Group D.
Interestingly, each of France, Denmark, and the Socceroos registered an average possession of 60%, 62%, and 59% respectively, all holding a majority of the ball ahead of their opponents. Tunisia had an average possession of 42% however, statistical data was unavailable for their first round of qualifying and so data is taken from the playoff matches verse Mali.
So how do the Socceroos beat other possession-heavy sides?
Well, the answer may lie within the later phases of Socceroos qualification. In their final four games of qualification there was a distinct shift as they began to cede possession, registering below 50% possession for the first times all campaign. Within this, there is implication for a changing gameplan to adapt to the World Cup possession-heavy sides and provide a different gameplan.
The image above has the Socceroos average possession adjusted to their final four, and arguably toughest, qualification games as an implied indicator for how they will play within the World Cup. One of the key takeaways to show is what many will have expected, Denmark and France shape up as arguably the two toughest opponents in the group.
Does it translate to goals?
As the above image demonstrates, the Socceroos can expect to be starved of possession for the majority of the game in matches against France and Denmark, while Tunisia looms likely as a game for Australia to dictate the tempo to try and clinch an important result.
Under goalscoring abilities, Denmark threatens as most likely to score with an average of 3.00 goals scored per game, closely trailed by France registering 2.25. Tunisia register as a team poised to counter and score from few opportunities, registering 1.5 goals a game.
The Socceroos fair better with an averaged 2.05 goals per game, however, when factoring in the final four matches of qualifying, and the change in the Socceroos style, this dropped significantly to 0.25 goals per game. With this, they’ll be desperate to ensure they are clinical in front of goal, or the ability to generate plenty of chances.
However, chances may be hard to come by against a Denmark side conceding at a rate of 0.3 goals per game, France conceding 0.37, and a highly structured Tunisian defence conceding just 0.25 per average. As such, the Socceroos are set to enter the tournament with the leakiest defence of the four, conceding 0.6 per game against the tied FIFA ranked weakest opposition throughout qualifying.
So what do we expect?
Like any World Cup, it won’t be an easy process. Against France first up, the Socceroos can likely expect the minority of possession, and will depend on their defence being on form to restrict a free-scoring France featuring one of the worlds best attacking lineups. Despite the undoubtable talent in France, Denmark may be the toughest test, boasting the best possession, scoring, and defensive records coming into the tournament. As such the Socceroos will be desperate to be clinical on the counter.
The best chance is then Tunisia, where the Socceroos can expect to control the tempo of the game but will be hard-pressed to create quality chances, and must be wary of being dragged too far forward lest they be hit by a counter-attack from a Tunisian side that is well drilled to take critical goals from few chances.
The statistics paint a picture where they face a France with the second worst defensive record, (and a potential World Cup curse!), a dark horse in Denmark, and an unpredictable Tunisia, but a genuine chance to snatch points within the group.
One thing is for sure, a World Cup always throws up surprises, and it is sure to be a good one.
Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images