One would be excused for taking the glass-half-empty approach on Australia’s chances in Group D of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Graham Arnold’s men will be pitted against France, the reigning World Cup champions; Denmark, semi-finalists in last year’s European Championships; and Tunisia, a team ranked seven places higher than Australia.
The Socceroos last made the elimination stages of the World Cup in 2006 and have placed fourth in their group in the last two tournaments.
However, Australia’s gritty wins over the UAE and 22nd-ranked Peru to book the 31st of 32 World Cup spots has the nation reminiscing on the golden generation of 2006.
Below, I present you the foolproof analysis that should convince the population that Australia will steamroll through Group D.
France are in a period that could be defined as a golden generation. The current titleholders were undefeated in 16 matches in regular time in 2021 – they lost to Switzerland on penalties in the Euros, and Kylian Mbappe is a generational talent who has the silky dribbling skills of Mark Bresciano, speed of Stan Lazaridis and finishing abilities of Tim Cahill.
While the combined worth of the French squad is approximately $1.7 billion, the only individual to score an open-play goal for France against Australia in World Cup play is Aziz Behich.
Les Bleus have gone winless in their last four games. When the chips are down, the French are prone to internal conflicts – see the 2002 and 2010 FIFA World Cups and the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The last time a defending champion made it through to the elimination stage of a men’s World Cup was Brazil in 2010. The last time France was the defending World Cup winner was in 2002, also on the Asian continent, and they came fourth in their group, managing a solitary point.
France’s opening game in 2002 was a match-up against the might of Senegal, ranked 42nd in the world and eventual quarter-finalists. In 2022 the French will open their World Cup against the currently ranked 42nd nation in the world. Guess who? The might of the Socceroos.
Based on the concrete evidence above, it looks like Emmanuel Macron might be livid with Australia for years to come.
Prediction: Australia win
The 11th-ranked Danes may have become everyone’s second team after their heartwarming European Championship campaign, but they’ll be the second-best team on 30 November at the historic Al Janoub Stadium.
First and foremost, Denmark have never beaten the Socceroos in a FIFA World Cup match.
Furthermore, Denmark were knocked out by Croatia in the Round of 16 in 2018. Denmark have never made it out of the group stage in a World Cup after being knocked out in the Round of 16.
For the last several years Socceroos winger Awer Mabil has plied his trade at FC Midtjylland, a traditional Danish powerhouse. The majority shareholder of FC Midtjylland is Matthew Benham, also the owner of Brentford FC.
What relevance does this have? Five individuals in Brentford’s squad, including the mercurial Christian Eriksen, have combined to represent Denmark 187 times. Brentford and FC Midtjylland regularly share players and have similar tactics, and thus Mabil has gained insight into the tactical nous of Danish football royalty. The Kenyan-born Socceroo was not involved in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and thus Australia will be able to exploit Danish weaknesses come November.
Speaking of royalty, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, married an Australian, Princess Mary. In the spirit of ‘happy wife, happy life’, I would expect instructions from the top to let Australia come out on top.
Prediction: Australia win
The famous Australian-Tunisian footballing rivalry will surface once more on 26 November. Twp games have been played between the two storied football nations. Australia have scored three goals, and Tunisia have scored two. Read between the lines.
Australia have never lost to an African nation in a FIFA World Cup game. A ten-man Australia had a 1-1 draw against a 32nd-ranked Ghana in 2010. Tunisia, being ranked 35th in the lead-up to this World Cup, are clearly statistically inferior. With 11 men (and even ten), Australia should coast through.
Furthermore, Tunisia have collected only one point against AFC opponents in FIFA World Cup play in two appearances against Japan and Saudi Arabia.
While both Australia and Tunisia have participated in five men’s World Cups, only Australia have made it past the group stage.
Predication: Australia win
If you aren’t convinced with the analysis above, just remember that the only time Australia qualified for a World Cup via a penalty shootout against a South American outfit they made the elimination stages.
Given it feels like Australia have played every single game in the Middle East for the past four years, this World Cup is pretty much a home World Cup for the Socceroos.
And at the end of the day, if all else fails, none of the other teams possess ‘Aussie spirit’.