French media view preview France vs Australia why world champions fear socceoos

France respects the Socceroos but “fears themselves” even more as an uneasy preparation and memories of a stuttering 2018 win over Australia linger ahead of Wednesday’s showdown in Qatar.

That is the view of leading French journalists, who say uncertainty and even “pessimism” surrounds the reigning champions as they set out to defend their title.

Les Bleus have endured an injury crisis that led to Qatar, with Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema being ruled out of the tournament this week along with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Their squad is still packed with top-flight talent, including one of the world’s best players, Kylian Mbappe, but the burden will lie on many younger and internationally inexperienced players if they are to go back-to-back.

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The draw against Australia in the opening game could be considered a blessing as Graham Arnold’s side are one of the biggest underdogs and bottom-placed sides of the tournament. Leading French sports newspaper L’Equipe gave the Socceroos zero stars in their tournament contender rankings.

But French players and media keep pointing to the encounter between the teams in Russia four years ago, in which Les Bleus only struggled to a 2-1 win that enraged coach Didier Deschamps.

“We only gave stars to the team that we think could win the World Cup,” said respected L’Équipe football writer Vincent Duluc

“We only gave the French three stars. There was no star for Australia because we don’t think Australia could win the World Cup. We don’t want to be rude (laughs).

“…It’s never good to play Australia in the first game of a World Cup.

“I remember four years ago it was a very tough game for France and this French team was stronger than here and it was really, really tough.

“And I remember Deschamps afterwards… He was really, really angry. Really angry. And I think it was very, very difficult to play against Australia.”

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The victory, sealed only by an 80th-minute Aziz Behich own goal, may ultimately have helped put the team on the road to World Cup winning, according to another leading French football insider.

“It was one of the worst games for France,” he said. “Deschamps wasn’t happy at all with the way they played.

“He changed everything tactically after that game and it was quite a critical point in the tournament after that first game.

“Some players lost their places and I think it will be the same this time – it will be a very important test and in this game players can lose their places or they can win their places for the rest of the tournament and that is Descahmps way thinks.”

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“That’s the game they have because if they don’t, it can get very close to a crisis. We think they can beat Denmark but we don’t know if they can.

“I don’t know if that’s Australia they’re scared of in that first game. Maybe they’re scared of this French team, maybe more than Australia.”

While the national team has had a turbulent experience in terms of its relationship with the French public over the past two decades, the current mood is strong, particularly with the brilliant and personable Mbappe at the helm.

But expectations at home were certainly tempered ahead of the tournament.

“People are concerned,” says Duluc.

“I think we have the weakest midfield in the national team for 50 years.

“So it should be fine, it should be enough to get you through Group One, but of course there’s the curse of the defending champions – four of the last five champions haven’t made it through Group One – so we don’t know.

“There isn’t a very positive dynamic around the team because this team has only won one of their last six games. That’s not much for such a team.

“Of course there’s Mbappe and others… but everyone knows you don’t win a World Cup with strikers, you win the World Cup with defence. So we don’t know.”


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