FIFA World Cup Group D Analysis: France face easy opposition on paper but Danish Deja vu brings back memories of 2002 ouster
Defending champions France enter the FIFA World having seemingly already been struck by what many call the 'champions curse'. They have lost three of their key players to injuries — Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante — and find themselves in one of the most unpredictable groups of the tournament.
Keeping these two European heavyweights in mind, we take a look at the teams in Group D and how they will fare in the upcoming mega event.
After their 2018 World Cup triumph, the depth of the French national team was so much that a lot of people believed that q second team of their players would have the potential to at least reach the semifinals of the World Cup. But since then, the team has been afflicted by the inflated egos of their superstar players, conflicts within their own football board, and unfortunate injuries to their best players.
France created history in 1998 after winning the coveted trophy having missed out on World Cup qualification in 1990 and 1994. Since then, they have reached the final twice, in 2006 when they lost to Italy on penalties (throwback to Zinedine Zidane's infamous head butt) and in 2018 when their dominance throughout the tournament helped them to the trophy.
This time around, the side will rely on the young talents of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelin Tchouameni in the midfield, and the likes of Jules Kounde and William Saliba in the defence. Their attack is more or less pre-determined, with the initiative falling on the shoulders of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and 2022's Balon D'or winner Karim Benzema.
Fixtures: Australia: November 22, Denmark: November 26, Tunisia: November 30
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez, Theo Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, Ibrahima Konate, Jules Kounde, Benjamin Pavard, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga, Youssouf Fofana, Matteo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, Jordan Veretout
Forwards: Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe
The biggest boost for Denmark will undoubtedly be the presence of Christian Eriksen, who suffered a suffering cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland. The midfielder has since gone on to revive his career, first with Brentford and then with Manchester United in the Premier League.
The Danes have a very erratic qualification history at the FIFA World Cup. This is just their sixth World Cup, having reached the Round of 16 in 2018, where they lost to Croatia on penalties. Their best performance was in 1998 when they reached the quarterfinals.
Other than Eriksen, all eyes will also be on their young attacking contingent, especially Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard and Andreas Skov Olsen. The midfield is sure to have Sevilla's Thomas Delaney and Tottenham's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. At the helm of their defence will be Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer.
Fixtures: Tunisia: November 22, France: November 26, Australia: November 30
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Oliver Christensen, Frederik Ronnow
Defenders: Alexander Bah, Simon Kjaer, Joachim Andersen, Joakim Maehle, Andreas Christensen, Rasmus Kristensen, Jens Stryger Larsen, Victor Nelsson, Daniel Wass
Midfielders: Thomas Delaney, Mathias Jensen, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Norgaard, Robert Skov
Forwards: Andreas Cornelius, Martin Braithwaite, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard, Jesper Lindstrom, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Skov Olsen, Jonas Wind
Among the best countries to play their trade in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Australia have proven that they are a team bigger than one player. This is because this will be their first World Cup without the legendary Tim Cahill, who helped the Aussies to consecutive World Cups from 2006 to 2018.
This is their sixth World Cup, and fifth consecutive appearance at the mega event. However, they have been able to move out of their group only once in these six World Cups, back in 2006 when they reached the Round of 16.
This time around, the Australians have a youthful side without the regular veterans in Cahill and Miles Jedinak. But the focus will be on one teenager in their squad — Garang Kuol. The 18-year-old forward signed his first professional with the Central Coast Mariners in June 2022 and was one of the commissioner's picks FOR the 2022 A-Leagues All-Stars Game against Barcelona. This paved the way for a transfer to the Premier League, where he will join Newcastle United in the January transfer window
Fixtures: France: November 22, Tunisia: November 26, Denmark: November 30
Goalkeepers: Maty Ryan, Andrew Redmayne, Danny Vukovic
Defenders: Milos Degenek, Aziz Behich, Joel King, Nathaniel Atkinson, Fran Karacic, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Keanu Baccus, Cameron Devlin, Riley McGree
Forwards: Awer Mabil, Mathew Leckie, Martin Boyle, Jamie Maclaren, Jason Cummings, Mitchell Duke, Garang Kuol, Craig Goodwin
The tiny African nation of Tunisian are the minnows in this group and while not many people consider them as threats to the other big wigs in the group, like France or Denmark, they are a team which can surprise their opponents on any given day.
Tunisia does not have the best record in the history of the FIFA World Cup. In five previous appearances, they have never been able to get out of the group stage on all occasions. In their history, they have played fifteen games, winning two, with four draws and nine defeats.
The squad does not have too many big names in their roster as well. The biggest name in the squad is Wahbi Khazri, who has experience in the Premier League and the Ligue 1 in France. The addition of Manchester United youngster Hannibal Mejbri, currently loaned to Birmingham City is a major boost as the midfielder is seen as the next big talent out of Carrington. Probably the biggest surprise is the omission of fullback Yan Valery, who plays for Angers and has experience in the Premier League. of them
Fixtures: Denmark: November 22, Australia: November 26, France: November 30
Goalkeepers: Aymen Dahmen, Bechir Ben Said, Mouez Hassen, Aymen Mathlouthi
Defenders: Ali Abdi, Dylan Bronn, Mohamed Drager, Nader Ghandri, Bilel Ifa, Wajdi Kechrida, Ali Maaloul, Yassine Meriah, Montassar Talbi
Midfielders: Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Ghaylane Chaalali, Aissa Laidouni, Hannibal Mejbri, Ferjani Sassi, Elyas Skhiri
Forwards: Anis Ben Slimane, Seifeddine Jaziri, Issam Jebali, Wahbi Khazri, Taha Yassine Khenissi, Youssef Msakni, Naim Sliti
Leading this group is most probably going to be France if they manage to shrug off the defending champions' curse. The onus will also fall on the other teams to make this happen, and if it does, then this will be the biggest upset in the history of the FIFA World Cup.