France start their World Cup campaign against Australia to kick off Group C action on Saturday. This French squad is loaded with talent, and the odds reflect that: they’re one of the top teams favored to win it all in Russia.
France vs. Australia Squads
France manager Didier Deschamps has an embarrassment of riches- outside of Germany, this is the most talented team in the tournament. But narrowly missing out on a European title left a nasty taste in France’s mouth, and now there are serious doubts about this team. Critics complain that Deschamps can’t get the most out of his players, and lament that superstars like Paul Pogba are much less impactful for France than their club teams.
Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, the two young stars expected to carry France, have received the brunt of the criticism. Griezmann caused his own distraction just days before the start of the tournament, announcing his intention to stay at Atletico Madrid in a video that resembled LeBron taking his talents to South Beach.
Deschamps biggest decision could be who to play up top. There are two wildly different option: 19-year old Kylian Mbappe, who is a speedster, and Olivier Giroud, the six-foot-four target man from Arsenal. It’s very possible we see both at some point in the tournament, just not at the same time.
France don’t have any severe injury concerns, but defender Djibril Sidibé is dealing with knee problems and could miss the opener.
Deschamps has already confirmed several changes for Australia. Ousmane Dembele will start at striker, and Corentin Tolisso will start in place of Blaise Matuidi in midfield. Tolisso joins Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante in one of the best midfields in the tournament. France will likely play a 4-3-2-1 against Australia,
If those switches are confirmed, this would be France’s youngest starting lineup in nearly 80 years, coming in at 24 years and six months old.
Australia turned the reigns over to Bert van Marwijk in January, and he’s got a tough job in navigating Australia through Group C. But van Marwijk has extensive World Cup experience, leading Netherlands all the way to the final in 2010 only to lose to Spain 1-0. This squad doesn’t have the same talent, but he’s instilled the same concepts of disciple that could make them more competitive than some are giving credit.
If you’re looking for the star Socceroo, it’s no longer Tim Cahil. The man to watch is Aaron Mooy, who played well for Huddersfield Town in the Premier League last season. At 27, Mooy is the type of player that could make a career-changing move with a few highlights in Russia.
Van Marwijk wants to model this team after Atletico Madrid, who use defense and discipline to contend with Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. This team doesn’t have the same talent as Atletico, but a tight 4-2-3-1 could frustrate a young France team in the early goings.
France vs. Australia Lineups