FIFA World Cup, Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia, team guide, preview – SportsMediaz


The last two World Cups weren’t exactly memorable for the reigning champions. Both the cup­winners were knocked out in the preliminary league stage — Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018. A similar fate is unlikely to befall France.

France has been hit by injuries, yes — two of its key men in the midfield won’t be on the plane to Doha. Still, it shouldn’t be difficult for the defending champion to progress from a group in which it has only one really strong team to worry about. That team, Denmark, has actually troubled it quite a bit over the past few months.

It was only a couple of months back that the Danes defeated France 2­0 at the UEFA Nations League in Copenhagen. When the two teams faced off in June in Paris, Denmark again won 2­1.

The Danes may not mind making it a hat­trick of upsets when the two European sides meet in Doha on November 26. That clash could very well determine the group winner. With France and Denmark expected to progress to the round of 16, the other two teams — Tunisia and Australia — are clearly the lower weights in the pool, but both will be keen to punch above their weight.

France

(FILES) This file photo taken on July 15, 2018, shows France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris holding the trophy as he celebrates with teammates during the trophy ceremony at the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

(FILES) This file photo taken on July 15, 2018, shows France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris holding the trophy as he celebrates with teammates during the trophy ceremony at the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
| Photo Credit: AFP/ALEXANDER NEMENOV

Didier Deschamps was one of the best defensive midfielders of his time. The defence he is worried about most at the moment must be of the World Cup, which he won as France’s coach in Moscow four years ago. Remarkably, he was the captain when France won its first World Cup in 1998.

France at the World Cup (FIFA Rank: 4)

World Cup appearances: 15, World Cup matches: 66, World Cup goals: 120

Road to World Cup: By winning UEFA Group D

Captain: Hugo Lloris

Coach: Didier Deschamps

The French team received a couple of setbacks, as midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante have been ruled out of the World Cup because of injuries. That might be a bit of a concern for Deschamps, but he should be confident of his side’s depth.

He would feel even better when he thinks of his attack, which must be among the most feared in Qatar — the young Kylian Mbappe and the seasoned Karim Benzema could be nightmares for any defence. Mbappe was the best young player at the last World Cup, in which he was also the second highest­scorer. Benzema, who wasn’t in Moscow as he had been suspended from the national team since 2015 following the blackmail scandal, arrives in Qatar still basking in the glory of the Ballon d’Or.

Not to forget, the team also has Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele. For France, the offence could well be the key to a successful World Cup defence.

Full France Squad

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda

Defenders: Lucas Hernandez, Theo Hernandez, Axel Disasi, Ibrahima Konate, Jules Kounde, Benjamin Pavard, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane

Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga, Youssouf Fofana, Matteo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, Jordan Veretout

Forwards: Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Randal Kolo Muani

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Australia

Mitchell Duke of Australia laughs during the Australia training session at Aspire Training Ground on November 19, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.

Mitchell Duke of Australia laughs during the Australia training session at Aspire Training Ground on November 19, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.
| Photo Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Australia’s exit in the league stage of cricket’s T20 World Cup — that too at home — may have been a shock, but if its football team progresses from the preliminary league in Qatar, it could be an even bigger surprise. In a pool that houses the reigning champion France and the formidable Denmark, the Aussies will have to play much better than their world­ranking of 38.

Australia at the World Cup (FIFA Rank: 38)

World Cup appearances: 5, World Cup matches: 16, World Cup goals: 13

Road to World Cup: By beating Peru in a shootout at the inter­continental playoff

Captain: Matthew Ryan

Coach: Graham Arnold

The team played 20 matches over 1008 days to finally qualify after beating Peru in the inter­continental play­off.

Manager Graham Arnold must be desperately hoping that the team’s best player Ajdin Hrustic, who can be dangerous with his passes as well as free­kicks, recovers fully from his ankle injury. Also, there have been concerns about the fitness of Martin Boyle, the Scottish­born winger who has to spearhead the attack.

The Socceroos may not have superstars but in players like goalkeeper Matthew Ryan, defender Aziz Behich, midfielder Aaron Mooy and striker Awer Mabil, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, there is quality, nevertheless

Full Australia Squad

Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Andrew Redmayne.

Defenders: Harry Souttar, Milos Degenek, Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng, Fran Karacic, Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Joel King.

Midfielders: Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Cameron Devlin, Riley McGree, Keanu Baccus.

Forwards: Jamie Maclaren, Mitchell Duke, Jason Cummings, Garang Kuol, Awer Mabil, Mathew Leckie, Craig Goodwin, Martin Boyle

Denmark

Denmark’s forward Andreas Skov Olsen (3rd L) celebrates scoring the 2-0 goal with his team-mates during the UEFA Nations League football match between Denmark and France in Copenhagen on September 25, 2022.

Denmark’s forward Andreas Skov Olsen (3rd L) celebrates scoring the 2-0 goal with his team-mates during the UEFA Nations League football match between Denmark and France in Copenhagen on September 25, 2022.
| Photo Credit: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

No team debuted at the World Cup like the way Denmark did. In 1986, the Danes won all their three matches in the group stage; notably they trounced Uruguay 6­1 and beat West Germany 2­0.

Denmark at the World Cup (FIFA Rank: 10)

World Cup appearances: 5, World Cup matches: 20, World Cup goals: 30

Road to World Cup: By winning UEFA Group F

Captain: Simon Kjaer

Coach: Kasper Hjulmand

They, however, were knocked out in the round of 16 by Spain. Twelve years later, they reached the quarterfinals and that remains their best performance in the tournament. In Qatar, they must be hoping to go even farther.

The way they qualified for the World Cup — nine wins from 10 games — and have played this year — they twice stunned World champion France — should give them a lot of confidence. And if they need inspiration, they need just to look at their midfielder Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during EURO 2020. He has since authored one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and his playmaking skills could be vital to Denmark’s campaign in Qatar.

The team’s strength is its solid defence, featuring the likes of skipper Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen. And behind them standing at the goal will be the redoubtable Kasper Schmeichel.

Full Denmark squad

Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Oliver Christensen, Frederik Ronnow.

Defenders: Simon Kjaer, Joachim Andersen, Joakim Maehle, Andreas Christensen, Rasmus Kristensen, Jens Stryger Larsen, Victor Nelsson, Daniel Wass, Alexander Bah.

Midfielders: Thomas Delaney, Mathias Jensen, Christian Eriksen, Pierre­Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Norgaard, Robert Skov.

Forwards: Andreas Skov Olsen, Jesper Lindstrom, Andreas Cornelius, Martin Braithwaite, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard, Jonas Wind, Yussuf Poulsen

Tunisia

Tunisia’s players celebrate qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup African Qualifiers football match between Tunisia and Mali at the Hamadi Agrebi Olympic stadium in the city of Rades on March 29, 2022. - Tunisia secured a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite being held 0-0 at home by Mali in the second leg of an African play-off.

Tunisia’s players celebrate qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup African Qualifiers football match between Tunisia and Mali at the Hamadi Agrebi Olympic stadium in the city of Rades on March 29, 2022. – Tunisia secured a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite being held 0-0 at home by Mali in the second leg of an African play-off.
| Photo Credit: FETHI BELAID / AFP

Tunisia has played in five World Cups but never has its campaign progressed beyond the league phase. The grouping suggests a change in the African nation’s fortunes is extremely unlikely.

Tunisia at the World Cup (FIFA Rank: 30)

World Cup appearances: 5, World Cup matches: 15, World Cup goals: 13

Road to World Cup: By beating Mali in the CAF third round

Captain: Youssef Msakni

Coach: Jalel Kadri

It had a relatively easy passage to Qatar — its opponents were Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Zambia and Mali. And it was thanks to an own goal from Mali that Tunisia qualified (no other goal was scored in either leg).

Tunisia will, no doubt, be up against much stronger sides than those it came across in the qualifiers, though it may fancy its chances against Australia. Tunisia, however, has some fine players in the line­up, including Wahbi Khazri, captain Youssef Msakni, Ellyes Skhiri and Seifeddine Jaziri, who should be happy to return to the country where he was the topscorer at last year’s Arab Cup.

Kadri might use a less­adventurous 4­5­1 formation to nullify the threats of France and Denmark while going for the offensive against

Full Tunisia squad

Goalkeepers: Aymen Dahmen, Bechir Ben Said, Aymen Mathlouthi, Mouez Hassen.

Defenders: Wajdi Kechrida, Mohamed Drager, Dylan Bronn, Nader Ghandri, Bilel Ifa, Yassine Meriah, Montassar Talbi, Ali Maaloul, Ali Abdi.

Midfielders: Ghailene Chaalali, Aissa Laidouni, Eliyes Skhiri, Hannibal Mejbri, Ferjani Sassi, Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane.

Forwards: Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni, Taha Yessine Khenissi, Issam Jebali, Seiffedine Jaziri, Anis Ben Slimane, Naim Sliti.

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