France have been pegged as one of the favourites at Russia 2018 and kick off their campaign against an Australia side that will be hard-pressed to make it out of Group C.
2018 FIFA World Cup
Date: 16 June 2018
Kick-off: 12H00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Kazan Arena
France 6-0 Australia (Friendly) 11/10/13
France goalscorers: F. Ribery (PG 8′), O. Giroud (16′, 27′), Y. Cabaye (29′), M. Debuchy (47′), K. Benzema (50′)
Players to watch:
For France it is a case of which players to watch as Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are supported in midfield by Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Ousmane Dembele, meaning Les Blues should be difficult for Australia to contain.
Aaron Mooy is Australia’s stand-out player and excelled in the Premier League, when fit, with Huddersfield this past season. His industry and vision will make him a threat from midfield, although there is a lack of natural strikers in the Aussie squad, bar 38-year-old Tim Cahill. Tom Rogic and Massimo Luongo should provide good support in the engine room.
Team form and manager quotes:
Didier Deschamps’ side have lost just once in 2018, to Colombia, after securing their World Cup qualification in impressive fashion to end on top of their group ahead of Sweden, while the Netherlands lost out.
Friendly wins over Russia, the Republic of Ireland and Italy were rounded off with a 1-1 draw against the United States in their final warm-up game, Mbappe scoring a late equaliser.
They are the youngest team at the tournament and they would go a long way to making up for losing in the final of Euro 2016 to Portugal two years ago with a good World Cup.
Deschamps told his pre-match press conference on Friday: “We can’t afford to get stage fright. I want the lads to be relaxed and concentrated. Their objective is drawing near. They have to seize the day.”
He continued: “I’ll pick the side that I think is best suited for this match.”
On Australia, under the tutelage of coach Bert van Marwijk, who led Holland to the World Cup final in 2010, he added: “He’s changed a lot of things.
“The players are the same and of course it’s the team that plays the match. But we won’t see Australia punting long balls up the field.
“They now try to play on the ground, and they’re more attack-minded and more disciplined.
“He’s also changed the defence, using four at the back instead of three in defence, or even five, as they used to. They’re well organised.”
Australia, who are placed 36th in the world by FIFA, had a long route to the World Cup, but made it through the final inter-confederation play-offs, beating Honduras over two legs, to earn their spot.
A 4-1 friendly loss to Norway was built on in the 0-0 draw with Colombia and two successive wins – 4-0 at home to the Czech Republic and 2-1 away to Hungry, in the lead up to facing the seventh-placed French side.
Van Marwijk added: “Normally, we play 10 times against France, maybe we lose eight, nine times.
“We have worked hard to get a situation that maybe we lose five, six times (out of 10) but we also can win a few times and a few times draw.
“That’s important. When you’re well organised and you believe in something and everybody knows exactly from each other what to do and you have the guts to play and be yourself, then we have a chance.”
Djibril Sidibe is fit to play for France after overcoming a knee injury while Australia have a fully-fit team to choose from.