France should be entering this World Cup as reigning European champions, but their failure to beat a limited Portuguese side on home soil certainly puts doubts over their overall credentials here. Nevertheless, they should have no problem advancing from what looks an easy group, starting their campaign against Australia.
The bookies don’t give the boys from Down Under much of a chance, but they’ve made an encouraging start to life under Bert van Marwijk – famous for leading the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final – scoring six times on the way to winning their two warm-up friendlies against Czech Republic and Hungary this month.
The Socceroos were a stronger side four years ago but were drawn in a group with Spain, Netherlands and Chile, effectively ending any chance they had of reaching the knockout, and as a result lost each game, conceding three times exactly in each.
However, they only fired a blank against Spain and over the years they’ve maintained a decent scoring record against the worlds best. Indeed, since 2011, they’ve netted in seven of their 10 encounters with teams we had in the top 10 in our rankings.
With France weaker at the back than they are going forward, both teams to score looks a solid play, which has occurred in six of Les Bleus last eight matches.
With the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe at his disposal, Didier Deschamps’ men should take maximum points form their opener. They’ve won nine of their last 11 against sides we have ranked between 20th and 40th (we have Australia at 26th) and although the Aussies managed to score in many of those recent fixtures with top 10 teams, seven ended in defeat. So, a France win and both teams to score looks the best way to get Les Blues onside.
For a longer shot, the 3-1 correct score is of interest as the Socceroos conceded exactly three times in five of those losses while two of France’s four matches leading into these finals finished 3-1 in their favour.