The 2018 FIFA World Cup gets underway on Thursday night/Friday morning (AEST) and nervous Australian fans won’t have to wait too long to see their team in action as the Socceroos campaign kicks off Saturday night as they take on tournament contender France. We preview the Aussie’s first matchup and give our betting tips for the game below.
It was a long and anxious World Cup qualifying campaign for Australia over the past year. After breezing through the second round of Asian qualifiers, the Socceroos ran into some trouble in round three, finishing third in their pool behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, who took the two automatic qualification spots on offer.
Australia then advanced to the fourth round where they were to face Syria in a home and away leg tie for the right to advance to the inter-confederation playoff. After tying the first leg 1-1, Australia went on to win the second leg in extra time 2-1 and book a place against Honduras. After a 0-0 first leg in Honduras, Australian fans finally breathed a sigh of relief as they defeated their opponents 3-1 at home to advance to the World Cup for a 5th FIFA World Cup.
Australia will get their World Cup campaign underway on Saturday night as they take on France, who come into the tournament as one of the red hot favourites after going all the way to the final of the 2016 European Championships and dominating their group in the World Cup qualifiers.
France were put in a tough group for the European qualification process alongside Sweden, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxemburg and Belarus and breezed through the stage, finishing with a 7-2-1 record through their 10 games. Star strikers Antoine Griezmann and Oliver Giroud were fantastic in the qualifying games, booting eight goals between them.
France might be coming into the tournament as one of the out and out favourites to lift the trophy, however, they have proved over the past few months that they are far from invincible. They have an extremely talented and deep roster filled with players playing for top clubs around the world, however, their form in the lead up friendlies has waivered just a touch. While they have won four of the seven friendlies they have played since qualifying for the World Cup, they suffered draws against both the USA and Germany and were beaten 3-2 by Colombia.
Australia have played just four friendlies since qualifying for the cup, and they have looked fantastic in their last two, winning 4-0 against the Czech Republic and 2-1 against Hungary June. Their most telling result, however, might have come against Colombia back on the 27th of March. In that match, Colombia dominated the flow of the game, controlling 58% possession and firing 14 shots to the Socceroos’ six.
The Aussies were still able to hold on for a draw in that game, which has to give some hope to the green and gold army ahead of this weekend’s clash, especially considering Colombia were winners over France just four days earlier.
There’s no doubt that France are the clear choice for this match, but we aren’t going to tell you to back a $1.26 favourite here. Australia will feel comfortable with a draw here and everybody knows that anything can happen in the World Cup. Look back to 2014 when Australia led the Netherlands 2-1 but were just beaten. Stranger things have happened, we aren’t telling you to put your mortgage on but if you want some value in this match, back the draw or Australia at the double chance.
However, we are looking more to the total goals market for some value. France will be wanting to make sure their campaign doesn’t get off to an absolute horror start so should be pretty tentative on Saturday night. As we mentioned above, Australia will be quite comfortable playing for a draw here so I expect a pretty defensive game on both accounts.
Australia were absolutely decimated by their group draw in 2014, drawing arguably three of the best ten teams in the world at the time in the Netherlands, Chile and Spain into their group. They were still able to score in two of their three group games so we think they could be a chance to find the back of the net against the French. Pointsbet are also running a great promotion that offers $4 for the Aussies to score!
Some questions remain over the fitness of Australian first choice striker Tom Juric, so it’s a strong possibility that we see A-League star Andrew Nabout start up front for the Socceroos on Saturday night. Tim Cahill will likely come on as a late substitution regardless of the score while it will be interesting to see if 20 year old star Daniel Arzani will see game time for the green and gold.
The midfield is where the French strength really lies. Paul Pogba of Manchester United is arguably one of the most complete midfielders in the world going forward of back and Aussie skipper Mile Jedinak will likely have his hands full on with Pogba on Saturday night. Antoine Greizmann will likely start ahead of Olivier Giroud but the French have plenty of attacking options with Thomas Lemer and and Ousmane Dembele in the squad.
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