France face Australia on Tuesday evening in a rematch of their opening group stage game at the 2018 World Cup.
The first-ever use of VAR at a World Cup awarded France a penalty which Antoine Griezmann converted en route to a 2-1 victory for the eventual champions. Australia couldn’t muster a single win in Russia and haven’t claimed a World Cup scalp since 2010.
Here’s everything you need to know about the first match in France’s defence of the World Cup.
France vs Australia H2H Results (Last Five Games)
Current Form (Last Five Games)
France team news
Didier Deschamps has been forced into a couple of sharp squad reshuffles following late injuries to RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku and PSG centre-back Presnel Kimpembe. Randal Kolo Muani and Axel Disasi have replaced the duo.
Marcus Thuram was another delayed addition after Deschamps initially named just 25 players. The son of a World Cup winner has been struggling with illness ahead of the opener.
Karim Benzema has missed nine Real Madrid games this season through various muscular complaints and suffered an injury scare 15 minutes into a French training session before the squad flew out to Qatar. However, Benzema quelled concerns by insisting: “I’m fine. I had little pain but no tear or big injury.”
Deschamps was keen to stress that France “are not going to cut corners” when it comes to Raphael Varane’s rehabilitation from a knee problem he suffered in October. But the Manchester United centre-back is expected to be available against Australia.
France Starting 11 (4-3-1-2): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Konate, L Hernandez; Tchouameni, Y Fofana, Rabiot; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappe.
Bench: Mandanda, Areola, Disasi, Kounde, Saliba, Upamecano, T Hernandez, Guendouzi, Veretout, Camavinga, Giroud, Dembele, Kolo Muani, Coman, Thuram.
Australia team news
The chief concern for Australia’s coach Graham Arnold is unquestionably Hibernian winger Martin Boyle. A knee injury has prevented the Scottish-born forward from training. The fitness concern is deemed to be severe enough for Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio to join the group in Doha as a standby option should Boyle lose his race against time.
Australia Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy, Irvine; Leckie, Hrustic, Mabil; Maclaren.
Bench: Redmayne, Vukovic, Degenek, Karacic, Wright, Deng, King, McGree, Devlin, Baccus, Duke, Kuol, Goodwin, Cummings.
France haven’t had the most serene buildup to the tournament, with injuries and the nagging issue of squad harmony bubbling in the background. Yet, given the rich resources of talent Les Bleus boast, most XIs Deschamps fields will dwarf the quality of Arnold’s Socceroos – theoretically at least.
Just three of the past 12 World Cup winners have begun the defence of their title with a victory. Deschamps had retired from playing by the time France infamously lost the 2002 opener to Senegal. It’s not impossible but is unlikely that he will discover that embarrassment in management.
Prediction: France 2-1 Australia