The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be held in Qatar from 20th November to 18th December. 32 teams will compete across 64 matches, and Lovin Malta will be sharing its analysis, predictions and key battles on the pitch ahead of some of the most important matches.
France vs Australia: Overview
Just like in Russia 2018, the defending champions Les Bleus open up their World Cup campaign against my beloved Socceroos. The 4 year time lapse since that encounter took place has not really changed the odds for Australia. France will enter this game once again as the heavy favourites to win and kickstart their World Cup defence on the right note.
I cannot say that all is rosy in the French camp as there are proper causes for concern. A recent spate of injuries in the run-up to this tournament has robbed the French of three key players in N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba and current world player of the year, Karim Benzema. They do have enough talent in depth to fill three squads if they wished, nonetheless it will be interesting to see how the talented but inexperienced midfield will cope with the lights of the World Cup.
As for Australia, it is quite a surprise that they even qualified for Qatar 2022 given the poor qualifying campaign that was undertaken. Penalty shoot-out heroics (via a Wiggles dance from all things!) in our intercontinental play-off against Peru sealed our spot in the tournament.
Whilst Australia loves to relish in an underdog role, it will take some miracle to get out of what looks like a very strong group. Can the
Socceroos upset the odds and hold off a ridiculously talented French outfit?
Tactics & Formations:
Due to the aforementioned injuries to Pogba and Kante, I suspect Deschamps will line his troops in a 3-4-1-2 formation to protect the central midfield. This will also allow a trident of Griezmann, Mbappe and Giroud to cause havoc between them up front, which might also give space to a rampaging Theo Hernandez on the left.
Regardless of tactics, France have a team built to hurt any opponent in a multitude of ways, not too mention the amount of options
available on the bench.
For us Aussies, I would be surprised if Arnold does not deploy a conservative version of the 4-2-3-1. Organization and compactness will be key if Australia is to get anything out of this game, and while this may stifle some creativity at first, the longer Australia holds out France, the more France will be frustrated and more spaces can be opened up.
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Key Battles on the Pitch:
1) Theo Hernandez (25yo AC Milan (ITA) Left-Back) VS Awer Mabil (27yo Cadiz FC (ESP) Right-Winger)
Theo Hernandez has developed into a world beater in the last couple of seasons with AC Milan, and definitely deserves a starting spot in the French set-up. Technically gifted, strong as an ox, runs like The Flash, Theo is simply one of the most complete wing backs in the game today. However due to Theo’s attacking nature, spaces may be frequent on the left-hand side for Australia to exploit.
Enter Awer Mabil. The ambidextrous, powerful winger will need to exploit those moments carefully in order for the Aussies to have any chance of hurting France. Quite a tough task, but nothing has come easy for Awer Mabil in life, and he will be itching to cause France a headache or two.
2) Adrien Rabiot (27yo Juventus (ITA) Central-Midfielder) VS Aaron Mooy (32yo Celtic FC (SCO) Central-Midfielder)
The main question heading into Qatar 2022 for the French camp is how will the team cope without both Pogba and Kante, stars of their 2018 victory? With both stars out, the player with the most experience in the middle of the pitch for France is Rabiot, a talented, industrious but temperamental midfielder who will be looked upon to deliver for France and become a star in his own right.
The man tasked to negate him will be Aaron Mooy, Australia’s experienced metronome in the middle of the park is set to experience his second World Cup, and knows a thing or two about facing this France side. I am sure this experience will come in handy throughout the match.
3) Olivier Giroud (36yo AC Milan (ITA) Striker) VSHarry Souttar (24yo Stoke City (ENG) Centre-Back)
Just like French wine, Olivier Giroud seems to simply get better with age. The towering forward still has a knack for clutch goal, however his main task will be to create space for the other two devastating attackers to take advantage of. It would therefore make perfect sense to mark off Giroud with Harry Souttar, who stands at 198cm. The aerially proficient defender will hope to help Australia spring a shock and increase his reputation as a solid defender by negating France’s powerful number 9.
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One can only dream of an upset for my beloved Aussies, but being very honest, it is very, very, very unlikely that we will be able to upset a France team which seems just too strong to handle. 2-0 to Les Bleus!
Cover photo credits: Left – France national football team, Right: Australia national football team
Darren Abela is a sports correspondent with a keen interest in football analysis, Inter Milan, and anything Ferrari.
What’s your prediction for the France-Australia game?