A Tough Test: Analysing the Socceroos’ World Cup Opponents

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It may have taken a circuitous route, but Australia managed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While some qualifying results will have given head coach Graham Arnold sleepless nights, and some might also say that the penalty shootout to qualify against Peru was fortuitous, the important thing is that the Socceroos have punched a ticket to Qatar and will join football’s elite for the pinnacle of international competition in November.

Of course, that means only half the story is told. And the Australian fans will want to see their team be as competitive as possible, perhaps emulating the 2006 team that made it to the Round of 16 at the World Cup in Germany. But a tough, tough test awaits in the shape of Australia’s Group D opponents, one of the most difficult in the tournament. Arnold and his team will need to be at their best – and possibly get a bit of luck – to finish in the top two and qualify.

In light of that, let’s look at those opponents and see if we can get a handle on Australia’s chances by pointing out their strengths and weaknesses.

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France

Play Australia: 22nd November

The world champions need very little introduction. France boast one of the best squads in global football, and they are second only to Brazil in the World Cup odds for 2022. And many fans will believe they should be favourites. Nonetheless, it’s a doozy of an opening game for Australia, and one where they will have to be at their very best to get anything from. Losing heavily will mean an uphill struggle to qualify.

Strengths: A ridiculously talented squad.

Weaknesses: There are some questions over the centre midfield, particularly due to the form of players like N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

Key player: Kyliann Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain)

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Tunisia

Play Australia: 26th November

The game against Tunisia perhaps offers Australia the best chance of getting points on the board, but the North African side is a tough nut to crack. They qualified for the World Cup without breaking a sweat, and they have not tasted defeat since January 2021. They also have one of the meanest defences in African football.

Strengths: The Tunisians have built success on a defence-first policy. They will be hard to score against.

Weaknesses: A lack of squad depth outside the starting XI means coach Jalel Kadri will be relying on a small unit of players.

Key Player: Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United)

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Denmark

Play Australia: 30th November

Depending on what happens in the previous two games, the Denmark tie could be a nail-biter. It’s almost a certainty that Australia will need to get a win or a draw in this one, but it won’t be easy. Denmark are arguably one of the most underrated teams in world football. Semi-finalists at the European Championships last year, they will believe they can progress deep into this tournament.

Strengths: A sense of cohesion. The backbone of this Denmark team – Schmeichel, Kjaer, Eriksen, Poulsen, Delaney, Braithwaite – have played with each other for years. They resemble a club side.

Weaknesses: Like Tunisia, there isn’t a lot of depth in the squad. An injury to a key player could be problematic.

Key Player: Christian Eriksen (Manchester United)

Feature image credit: Alen Delic

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