France v Australia: World Cup 2022 – live
Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the eighth match of the 2022 World Cup, France v Australia from Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah. Kick-off in this group D clash is 10pm local time (6am AEDT/7pm GMT).
For the second successive tournament France and Australia open their campaigns against one another. In Kazan four years ago the eventual champions ground out a 2-1 victory with a late deflected winner. They will expect a more routine three points tonight.
There will be few more striking mismatches all tournament, on paper at least. France are holders of the World Cup and winners of the 2021 UEFA Nations League. Even without some notable absentees Les Bleus boast a squad as deep and talented as any in the competition, with a long-serving coach able to blend a side featuring proven campaigners and the brightest prospects in the game.
By contrast, Australia are ranked 38th by FIFA and required a 20-game odyssey to qualify, one ending in a penalty shootout victory over Peru. Only four members of Graham Arnold’s squad have more than 50 caps (half the group have 10 caps or fewer), and only two are signed to clubs in any of Europe’s top-five leagues. “I don’t know any of the players individually,” Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté said on Sunday.
France will look to Kylian Mbappé for inspiration, a man valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars with proven World Cup pedigree; Australia to Celtic journeyman Aaron Mooy, one of six Scotland-based Socceroos.
“You can say our players aren’t playing in the top leagues in the world and all their players are,” Arnold said this week. “But it’s about team spirit, it’s about connecting 11 players – and 26 players – together in a family environment, making sure they’re mates and they’ve got each other’s backs. That’s when you can get special results.”
But as guaranteed as the result looks ahead of time it still has to be earned, and France know from bitter experience how a World Cup campaign can unravel – especially as defending champions. Besides, it suits Arnold’s character to tap into the “little Aussie battler” trope. “We have got the Aussie DNA,” he said. “We will go out there and have a fight, kick and scratch, do whatever is required.”
There’s an hour or so before kick-off so feel free to spend that time sending me an email. Or, if you haven’t yet jumped ship, tweet me @JPHowcroft.