France's superstars will be out to make an impression versus Australia in their World Cup opener, coach Didier Deschamps tipped to field an all-star front three of Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
FIFA World Cup Group C, Matchday 1
France - Australia (Kick-off at 12:00 CET)
France have been regularly listed among the favourites to go all the way in the World Cup in Russia, but their having to rescue a draw against a tough-tackling, hard pressing USA side a week ago was an apt reminder that Les Bleus will need to pair their blinding talent with a steely mentality if they are to live up to their promise.
"It's the World Cup, it's the apotheosis of football, and this first match is very important," Deschamps underlined with the match against an Australia side known for their never-say-die attitude - embodied by talismanic captain Mile Jedinak - looming. "The objective is drawing closer. We need to bite into it as if it were an apple."
To get the job done, Deschamps is tipped to opt for speed over power, leaving Olivier Giroud out and starting Mbappé, Griezmann and Dembélé across the front line, with a powerhouse three-man midfield of Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kanté and - at the expense of Blaise Matuidi - Corentin Tolisso behind them.
Second-choice full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez should flank Deschamps' preferred central defensive pairing of Raphaël Varane and Samuel Umtiti, but captain Hugo Lloris and his side are not taking this opening match lightly by any stretch of the imagination.
LLoris: 'Be ready'
"There is a bit of apprehension and excitement," said the France captain, who will be contesting his third World Cup. "We've said it many times: the first match is important for the confidence and our dynamic. But there will be an opponent lining up against us and we need to be ready right from the word go."
On neutral territory, the head-to-head record between the two nations is perfectly balanced: a 1-0 win for France in Japan in 1994 and a win by the same scoreline for Australia in South Korea in 2001. The last meeting between the sides, however, was a 6-0 demolition by Les Bleus at the Parc des Princes in 2013…
France: Lloris (c); Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Tolisso, Kanté, Pogba; Griezmann; Mbappé, O. Dembélé
Australia: Ryan; Risdon, Sainsbury (c), Milligan, Behich; Luongo, Mooy; Leckie, Rogic, Kruse; Nabbout