Why The Socceroos Could Actually Smash France

Who doesn't love an underdog?

Image: Getty

Everyone thinks the French are going to kick Australia out of their path about as easily as they gobble baguettes and sink Cinsault. But anything can happen in football. And France have a few serious obstacles in their way, which they didn’t have at the last World Cup.


Australia has about as much hope of winning the World Cup as Kanye West has of being invited to host the next World Jewish Congress. We’re a gnat of a country in the football world and none of our players currently would make it within sniffing distance of the bench of any of the world’s best teams.

But… anything can happen in football. And even if statistics tell us we’re a chance in hell to win the whole competition, a single game is possible. And France are not the mighty force they’ve been billed (even if they are still many peoples’ tournament favourites, just behind Brazil). But we disagree with the bookies. Why? Not only are France without Benzema, but their midfield is unproven, and they are prone to infighting.

That’s just a couple of reasons why we think Australia has a chance going into tomorrow morning’s game. Read on to hear them all.

Benzema is out injured

I know they did it without him last time. But four years is four years. And as of 2022, Benzema is the best number 9 in the world, so it’s a huge blow for Les Blues. And though Giroud did a cool scorpion kick that one time, I’m pretty sure he’s past it now.

Mbappe isn’t as scary as he used to be

Hear me out. I’m not saying Mbappe is past it. I’m not that delusional. But… have you heard of Haaland? While Mbappe has been busy getting (allegedly) petty with Neymar and co. at PSG, Haaland has overtaken him as the most feared attacker in the world (and in the hardest league to boot). And though Mbappe is basically the same lethal force (arguably better) than he was four years ago at 19, and though he now has more experience on his side, it’s possible he is not mentally in that pristine, underdog state that he was in 2018, when he was a very young gun that was able to surprise people.

Also, I heard once in PDHPE at school that men peak physically at 19 and then slowly tail off until they are 29 (before then dropping off even harder). So perhaps Mbappe won’t be quite as fast as he was at 19? Only time (and defender’s studs) will tell. Oh, on top of that, I reckon Mbappe will secretly be seething about all the attention Haaland is getting. So – though he might have a point to prove – he might also be feeling the pressure a bit more than when he was a 19-year-old wunderkid.

Dembele can be hot and cold

Don’t get me wrong, he can give defenders nightmares. But his career at Barcelona has been far from easy sailing, and there was a time when many people thought he was going to leave.

Griezmann has had a tough few years

Griezmann might have been (almost) the Next Coming of Messi in 2018, but since then he has endured a spell at Barcelona that didn’t work out, and a return to an Athletico Madrid which – though they won the league in 2021, just before he arrived back – have recently been abysmal. Griezmann can still be lethal, but as lethal as 2018? I doubt it.

France’s midfield is unproven at a World Cup

Pogba doing his thing at the last World Cup. Image: Fox Sports

Cavaminga and Tchouameni might be among the hottest young centre midfielders in the world. They might have chemistry, playing together at European Champions Real Madrid. They might also have big game experience, having enjoyed a fair bit of Champions League football at Madrid. But Modric, Kroos and Casemiro (before he left), despite much needing the French pair’s legs (and depth they gave the squad) last year, were still the stalwarts that provided the foundation for Madrid’s midfield. So though many people are saying the absence of Pogba and Kante isn’t all that important, it could prove pivotal.

France’s defence counts for f*ck all

Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration. And yes: Konate may play for Liverpool and Upamecano may play for Bayern. Pavard and Hernandez may be super solid. Lloris may be world-class. But in the end, none of that matters. Why? Because Australia (and I say this as lovingly as possible) is shit. We’d be relying on luck anyway, to beat the vast majority of teams in this tournament. Against France, all we need is a moment of madness, a piece of luck, a scramble in the box. So France’s – on paper – pristine defence isn’t the be-all and end-all. We just need to make something crazy happen.

Australia have nothing to lose

Who doesn’t love an underdog? Not to mention: France have the weight of last tournament’s medals around their necks.

Australia actually have a bit of talent

As rudely as we often write ourselves off, we have a bit of talent. Not only do we have beautiful bearded babe (and penalty saving hero) Andrew Redmayne, but we’ve also got classy attacking midfielders like Verona playmaker Ajdin Hrustic. Hrustic, who is 26, “is without rival…Australia’s most creative midfielder,” according to FIFA.

FIFA calls him “elegant and confident on the ball” and remarks that “his ability to both score and create established the Verona playmaker as the breakout star of the Socceroos’ Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign.”

Per FIFA: “Team-mates have been quick to acknowledge as much, with winger Matt Leckie lauding Hrustic’s ability to ‘at any time of the game, pick a pass or do something special’. World Cup defences should also be wary of his capacity for the spectacular in set-piece situations, which was demonstrated more than once during the World Cup preliminaries.”

We’ve also got winger Awer Mabil, who plays in the Spanish top flight (for rough and tough outfit Cadiz), who is another FIFA “player to watch” and whose journey to the World Cup is an inspiring one, and 31-year-old Aaron Mooy, an Aussie legend of the game, who is still plying his trade in the midfield at a pretty good level (after a stint in Shanghai he’s now in Scotland). And of course Matty Ryan, our keeper, who used to play in the Premier League for Brighton (he’s now at Danish champions FC Copenhagen).

So – though our coach Graham Arnold’s words to FIFA+ back in June don’t exactly bellow confidence (“I know we don’t have anyone at the moment consistently starring in the world’s biggest leagues, but there is talent there”) here at DMARGE we are calling for faith (Arnold has also made more optimistic comments like “I believe in my players”). To be fair, also, it’s good to have a realist as a coach.

Starting lineups

Australia is predicted to take a defensive formation and France is expected to go a little more attacking. If Australia gets a lucky goal, this could backfire on France.

Sporting News predicts Australia will line up as follows: “(3-4-1-2, right to left): 1. Ryan (GK) — 2. Degenek, 19. Souttar, 4. Rowles — 3. Atkinson, 13. Mooy, 22. Irvine, 23. Goodwin, 10. Hrustic — 15. Duke, 9. Maclaren.”

They then reckon France will line up like this: “(4-2-3-1, right to left): 1. Lloris (GK) — 2. Pavard, 24. Konate, 18. Upamecano, 21. Lucas Hernandez — 8. Tchouameni, 25. Camavinga — 10. Mbappe, 7. Griezmann, 11. Dembele, 9. Giroud.”

The big occasion starts at 6am tomorrow. Go set your alarms.

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