WITH the World Cup finally underway every team in the tournament is hotly anticipating their first game in Qatar – with the pressure on holders France perhaps the greatest.
The depleted world champions face Australia in Group D looking to avoid a major upset.
The 2018 World Cup winners will be desperate to retain their title despite having a host of big names side-lined for the tournament.
These two teams faced off in the group stage at the Russia World Cup.
France ran out 2–1 winners back then as both sides converted penalties and were only separated by an Aziz Behich’s own goal.
Here, SunSport takes a look at whether those fortunes could change as they lock horns again at the 40,000-seater Al Janoub Stadium.
How did they get there?
france: Qualified in first place of their qualifying group.
They didn’t lose a single match in the process and topped the group by six points and a goal difference of +15.
Australia: The Socceroos were one of the final teams to qualify for the World Cup.
They only confirmed their ticket to Qatar in June after beating Saudi Arabia and then Peru in World Cup play-off matches.
What’s the form?
france: Les Blues have been in patchy form for most of the year, winning just three of their eight games in 2022 as Didier Deschamps experiments with a new formation.
They lost their most recent game in the UEFA Nations League 2–0 to Denmark and narrowly avoided relegation to the second tier.
Australia: The Aussies were one of the last teams to make it to the World Cup but have enjoyed strong recent form despite a rough start to 2022.
They have won each of their last five games which have included both World Cup qualifiers and a pair of friendlies against New Zealand.
Who are the managers?
france: Didier Deschamps has been in charge of the French team for an entire decade now.
He took over in 2012 and has overseen the creation of a global superpower – much like the France side he was in as a player which won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship.
Under his stewardship France made it all the way to the finals of Euro 2016 before winning the 2018 World Cup in dominating fashion.
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Australia: Graham Arnold will be giving up something in terms of experience against Deschamps as he enters his first World Cup with Australia.
He was appointed for his second stint shortly after the 2018 World Cup and has maintained Australia’s record of reaching the World Cup on every occasion since 2006.
In 2019 Australia crashed out of the quarter-finals of the Asia Cup despite being the reigning champions.
Who are the star players?
france: KYLIAN MBAPPE will once again be likely to make the headlines as he takes an even more prominent role in Didier Deschamps’ side than the one he did in 2018.
The PSG superstar was France’s top scorer alongside Antoine Griezmann in Russia.
And with Karim Benzema ruled out of the squad the onus will once again fall on Mbappe to score the goals for Les Blues.
It truly is a testament to the quality of players from France that despite missing a host of big names like Ballon d’Or winner Benzema plus midfield mainstays Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante they still have a squad spilling over with quality.
Australia: AARON MOOY will likely be the man tasked with trying to lead Australia to the latter stages.
The Socceroos have only made it past the group stage of the World Cup on one occasion – 2006 – and the difficult group they have landed in means their hopes of doing so again look bleak.
But former Huddersfield midfielder Mooy will be looking to make sure Australia both defend stoutly and attack with creativity.
And his ability to find space in midfield and sniff out danger will be pivotal against a new-look France midfield.
What’s the head to head?
France wins: 3
Australia wins: 1
Which TV channel will show the game?
BBC One will be broadcasting the game at 7pm on Tuesday.
Considering the recent history of fixtures between these two sides and their respective recent achievements, there is only really one way this is expected to go.
That being said, Australia will not be pushovers for France and are more than capable of causing an upset if Mbappe and Co are not at 100 per cent.
FRANCE 3-1 AUSTRALIA