World Cup Preview - Group D

22.11.2022 11:34:04 Bradley Lobo
Kylian Mbappé of France

Tunisia

The Lowdown

Competing at their sixth World Cup and fifth out of the last seven. Tunisia have been a relative constant in recent years but have also consistently failed to get out of the group stage. Topped their group in the preliminary round of African qualifying and then squeezed through a two-legged play-off against Mali thanks to an own-goal

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Jalel Kadri – a former assistant manager who was promoted to the hot seat in January 2022. Tunisia conceded just once in his first 9 matches (W6 D2 L1) in charge, until a humbling 5-1 defeat by the mighty Brazil last time out. Unsurprisingly, the tactics involve being difficult to break down, often sitting deep in a 4-5-1 formation. The coach has put massive pressure on himself by saying that it would be a “failure” if he didn’t guide his country past the group stage.

 

The Captain

Youssef Msakni – the most capped player in the squad with 88 appearances for Tunisia and 6th on the all-time top scorers list with 17 goals. An experienced forward who was at one time linked with some top European clubs but never made the jump up in class. 

 

The Key Man

Wahbi Khazri – with 24 goals in 72 caps, he is the highest goalscorer in the current Tunisian squad and 2nd on the all-time list. Born in France and spent most of his career in Ligue 1 where he currently plies his trade for Montpellier. One of the rare players in the squad capable of producing magic out of nothing. Famed for being among the top scorers from outside the box in the French top flight.

 

The One to Watch

Hannibal Mejbri – the Manchester United owned youngster may not start games but has already proven to be capable of leaving an impression even when coming off the bench. A creative midfielder with a combative edge, the 19-year-old is considered one of the leading lights for the future of Tunisian football.

 

Verdict

3rdSeem certain to fall at the first hurdle yet again, with world champions France and a very good Danish side for company in this group. Definitely capable of overcoming Australia though.

 

Australia

The Lowdown

The Socceroos make their sixth appearance at a World Cup and their fifth in a row. Much like Tunisia, they always seem to arrive at the tournament but exit early at the group stage. The one exception being 2006 when they lost in the last 16 to eventual champions Italy via a contentious injury-time penalty. Australia's qualifying was long and arduous lasting almost 3 years! They started their campaign with a world record 11 wins in a row, but their form tailed off before they eventually crept through on penalties in a play-off with Peru.

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Graham Arnold was an assistant to Guus Hiddink in Australia’s greatest performance at a World Cup in 2006 but has yet to win over the supporters on his own merit. Arnold’s style of football isn’t the most inspiring, but he doesn’t have the greatest talent pool to work with and that hasn’t been helped by injuries to important players. Hibernian winger Martin Boyle is one of their biggest goal threats but has been ruled out of the tournament – whilst playmaker Ajdin Hrustic is carrying a knock. A defensive approach is likely, whilst hoping to capitalise on counter-attacks and set-pieces in particular.

 

The Captain

Mat Ryan - The most capped player in the squad with 75 appearances for the Socceroos. Played over a century of games in the Premier League for Brighton before earning a loan move to Arsenal. His career has stagnated since leaving England and has been second choice at FC Copenhagen in recent weeks. A solid and reliable goalkeeper on his day, he will most likely be very busy considering the quality of opposition in this group.

 

The Key Man

Aaron Mooy – another Aussie who made a name for himself at Brighton. Mooy’s ability on the ball will be key in helping the Socceroos transition from defence to attack through the midfield, helping to alleviate some of the inevitable pressure they’re bound to come up against.

 

The One to Watch

Ajdin Hrustic – probably the most talented player overall in a very modest squad. A dead-ball specialist, Hrustic has scored three goals for Australia so far and two of them have come from direct free-kicks. His delivery on set-pieces is also excellent and will be key to utilising the Socceroos aerial power. Carrying an injury and will only make the bench for the opening game against France.

 

Verdict

4thIt would take a minor miracle for them to get out of this group given the lack of squad depth and injuries. Finishing above Tunisia is probably the best they can hope for.

 

Denmark

The Lowdown

Tipped by many to be the dark horses in Qatar. Denmark are fresh off an excellent showing at Euro 2020 where they only lost to a dubious penalty in extra-time of their semi-final against England. Breezed through their qualifying group by winning their first nine games in a row and didn’t even concede a goal in the first eight. They then claimed two wins over world champions and upcoming Group D opponents France in the Nations League home and away. The Danes are famous for causing one of the great international upsets by winning Euro 92 and could be ready to shock the world this time.

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Kasper Hjulmand – appointed in 2019 and quickly won over the Danish supporters with his results at the European Championship as well as his demeanour off the pitch. The manager has helped unite the nation behind what is arguably the best group of players Denmark has had since that Euros triumph in 1992. Hjulmand likes to play an expansive style starting from the back where he often uses ball-playing defenders Andreas Christiansen, Simon Kjær and Joachim Anderson in a 3-man backline. Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg provide steel in midfield to complement the creative talent going forward. The only hole in the team may be the lack of a clinical centre-forward.

 

The Captain

Simon Kjær - considered a national hero for his response to Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in a potential life-saving moment at Euro 2020. Touted as a huge prospect from a young age, the well-travelled defender appears to have finally settled at Milan and lifted the Scudetto last season after recovering from a lengthy knee injury. The most capped player in the Danish squad with 121 appearances. A true leader of the team.

 

The Key Man

Christian Eriksen – remarkable that he is even in Qatar after being left fighting for his life – let alone his career – after the last international tournament. Eriksen’s revival has been nothing short of extraordinary earning a move to Manchester United after a successful spell at Brentford brought him back to football. The biggest creative influence in the Danish team with a fine array of passing and excellent dead-ball ability.

 

The One to Watch

Joakim Mæhle - a full-back by trade but one of the biggest attacking threats in the team. Plays under Gian Piero Gasperini at Atalanta so it’s no surprise that he likes to get forward. Not only does he provide crosses and assists but he also ends up finishing attacks with goals from central positions in the box like a striker. 9 goals in 31 appearances for his country is a great return for a player in his position. 


Verdict

2ndnot much doubt about them qualifying from the group and the only question seems to be if they can finish above an injury-hit French side.

 

France

The Lowdown

The reigning world champions and one of the outright favourites for the competition again. France are looking to bounce back from a disappointing Euro 2020 where they were eliminated by Switzerland in the last 16 on penalties. Qualified top and unbeaten from their group despite a couple of dodgy home draws against Bosnia and Ukraine. Form leading up to the tournament has been less than impressive with just one win in six Nations League matches (D2 L3). Preparation for Qatar has been thrown into disarray with a series of injuries to key players. Midfield mainstays from the 2018 triumph in Russia are missing as N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba stayed at home. Squad players Mike Maignan, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku are also out. Raphaël Varane is carrying an injury but has made the trip. The biggest blow came on the eve of the tournament when star striker and Balon D’or winner Karim Benzema was ruled out. A cruel blow to a player at the peak of his powers who was hoping to make his first appearance at a World Cup since 2014, after being previous exiled from the squad.

 

The Manager/Style of Play

Didier Deschamps was involved in France’s only two World Cup triumphs - as captain in 1998 and head coach in 2018. Despite that, there are certain sections of the French support that have grown tired of Deschamps after a decade at the helm. A former defensive-midfielder and thus naturally pragmatic in his approach, but Deschamps has far too much attacking talent at his disposal to be cautious. The manager has switched to a 3-4-1-2 system in recent games to accommodate Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema in the team, but an injury to the latter may force him into another tactical change.

 

The Captain

Hugo Lloris retains the role as the most capped player in the squad, with 139 appearances for Les Bleus. At 35-years-old, he is past his very best and his recent form for Tottenham hasn’t been particularly impressive. Lloris will hope to call on his experience and nous in what is likely to be his final World Cup outing.

 

The Key Man

Kylian Mbappé will have even more weight and expectation placed on his young shoulders in the absence of Balon D’or winner Benzema, but he already showed in 2018 that he thrives in such circumstances. At just 19 years of age, he became the first teenager since the legendary Pelé to score in a World Cup final and was named as the best young player in the tournament. He has since gone on to become a superstar and the highest paid footballer on the planet at PSG. That has come with its off-field controversies and question marks over his growing ego, but it will matter little if he is able to produce his best form in Qatar.

 

The One to Watch

Eduardo Camavinga – another young player who could be given huge responsibility in what will be his maiden appearance at an international tournament. May start alongside fellow youngster and new Real Madrid teammate Aurélien Tchouaméni in the centre of midfield, tasked with filling the notable holes left by the injured N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Camavinga is the more attacking of the duo and announced himself on the elite stage with some game-changing cameos off the bench in Real Madrid’s remarkable Champions League triumph last season.

 

Verdict

1stDespite their injury troubles, France should have enough to top the group – but they haven’t fared well against Denmark in recent games so it’s far from a foregone conclusion.

 

 

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