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The odds for France vs Australia have been taken from the FanDuel Sportsbook, which offers punters a generous $1000 no-sweat first bet.
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Back France to beat Australia without conceding in their opening game of World Cup 2022. The odds are not fantastic, but this probably represents the best choice for bettors.
Only two countries have ever won back-to-back World Cups, so history suggests France will struggle to follow in the footsteps of Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962). Yet as far as squad strength and depth is concerned, few can match les Bleus. If the reigning champions play to their potential in Qatar, they will take some stopping.
Yet recent World Cups have not been particularly kind to the holders. In four of the last five editions, the previous winners have been knocked out in the group phase. The run started in 2002, when a talented France side lost focus and togetherness, and were duly dumped out after three rounds of games in Japan and South Korea.
The same fate might not necessarily befall France this time around, but there are reasons to doubt their overall candidacy. Rumors about friction in the camp refuse to go away. The loss of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba to injury means Didier Deschamps has had to change his entire midfield. And will France be as hungry to triumph as they were four years ago?
On the plus side, theirs is a squad packed full of talent. In last year’s Nations League Finals, France did not always play well but their sheer attacking firepower saw them lift the trophy. This is a side that has the quality to beat anyone in the competition on its day.
Yet results in the most recent edition of the Nations League were poor, as France won just one of their six matches against Croatia, Denmark and Austria. Deschamps’ side were also knocked out of Euro 2020 by Switzerland in the last 16.
Do not be surprised if the Danes win Group D, leaving France as runners-up and with a potentially trickier path to the latter stages.
For a long time throughout the World Cup qualification process in Asia, Australian soccer fans did not expect their team to make it to Qatar.
A failure to win six of their 10 matches in the third round saw Graham Arnold’s side finish a distant third in their group, seven points behind Japan and eight adrift of Saudi Arabia. They only just held off Oman, who finished a point behind the Socceroos in fourth, to reach the play-offs.
First up was a 2-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates, secured thanks to an 87th-minute winner from Ajdin Hrustic. Australia then went forward to the inter-confederation play-offs, where they sprang a surprise in beating Peru on penalties following a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes of action in Qatar.
Australia showed no shortage of grit, resolve and spirit when they needed it most, thus reaching a fifth consecutive World Cup - a fantastic achievement for a nation where soccer is not the dominant sport.
But expectations going into Qatar are not particularly high. The current Australia squad is a far cry from the golden generation of Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Mark Schwarzer et al that reached the round of 16 in 2006. They are reliant on set-pieces and occasional counter-attacks, while many fans called for Arnold to be sacked before the successful play-off campaign.
Quite frankly, it is hard to see the Socceroos reaching the knockout phase, but a shock result on Tuesday would throw Group D wide open.
Because of the aforementioned doubts over France heading into the World Cup, together with the fact they are widely expected to win this match, a lot will be read into their performance. But Deschamps knows better than most that tournaments are all about peaking at the right time.
Four years ago in Russia, France certainly did not set the group stage alight. But they grew into the competition and went on to lift the trophy.
With a lack of preparation time - the vast majority of Europe-based players only joined up with their national teams a week before the big kick-off - France may lack cohesion in this opening encounter. They will no doubt have plenty of possession but they might rely on some individual moments to win the match.
We should not read too much into opening-game performances, for better or for worse. The result is king and, even if they do not put on a dazzling display of attacking soccer, it is hard to see France failing to pick up all three points at the Al Janoub Stadium.
Australia scored only one goal in four qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia, the two teams they faced that also qualified for Qatar. That does not bode well for their chances of finding a way past France’s defense on Tuesday. Back the holders and the favorites to win without conceding.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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