World Cup preview: Group D is all about holders France

In this file photo taken on July 15, 2018 France's forward Kylian Mbappe kisses the World Cup trophy after the Russia 2018 World Cup final against Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Photo: AFP

As the World Cup approaches, it is clear that some teams stand a realistic chance of lifting the trophy, and one among them is France. The defending champions are drawn in a tricky group featuring Denmark and Australia, who are known for their fighting spirit and resoluteness. Interestingly, in the 2018 edition too they were in the same group with France and Denmark making it to the knockout stage. The other team in Group D is African side Tunisia.

As the two-time World Champions are hot favourites to top the group, a keen battle is expected for the second place.

Here is all you need to know about Group D:

FIFA Ranking: 4
Head coach: Didier Deschamps

After lifting the title in Russia four years ago, France have gone through ups and downs on the international stage. Though Les Bleus bowed out in the Round of 16 of the 2020 European Championship, they won the UEFA Nations League. However, they struggled to avoid relegation in this year's Nations League. The shock loss to Senegal in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup will be fresh in their memories.

Strengths: France have two of the best strikers of the top-flight leagues in the world. Their attack comprising Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and PSG's Kylian Mbappe is arguably the best of all.

Weaknesses: France have been forced to reshuffle their squad following injuries to some of their key players. N'Golo Kante, arguably the finest defensive midfielder in world football now, has been ruled out of Qatar 2022 after undergoing an operation on a hamstring injury. Paul Pogba, who played a vital role in their 2018 triumph, is doubtful to be fit in time for the World Cup after he picked up a knee injury.

Kasper Schmeichel
Denmark's goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel eyes the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match against France in Copenhagen on September 25, 2022. File photo: AFP/ Franck Fife

FIFA ranking: 10
Head coach: Kasper Hjulmand

Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during Denmark's European Championship game against Finland in June 2021. It is nothing short of a miracle that he could turn out for Denmark against Tunisia in their first match of Qatar 2022 on November 22. Denmark have been in good form in recent times. They reached the semifinals of Euro 2020 despite losing Eriksenin in their first match of the tournament.

Strengths: Solid defence. The backline marshaled by AC Milan's Simon Kjaer and Barcelona's Andreas Christensen will not be easy to breach. Even if their opponents quell that challenge, they will face a solid wall in front of the goal in the form of Kasper Schmeichel.

Weaknesses: Denmark do not have a genuine goal-scorer in their ranks. In the qualification rounds, defender Joakim Pedersen was their top-scorer with five goals.

Tunisia players pose for a team photo before a match. Photo: Reuters/ Zoubeir Souissi

FIFA ranking; 30
Head coach: Jalel Kadri

Kadri has said that he will relinquish his post if Tunisia fail to enter the knockout stage. With high-profile teams such as France and Denmark in the group, it is going to be an uphill task for him. Tunisia have been in five prior World Cups, but they have yet to get out of the group stages and most recently in 2018, their lone win came against Panama. Once again, Tunisia will be counting on the experience of their star winger Youssef Msakni.

Strengths: Tunisia are known for 'parking the bus' and maintaining a tightly-knit defensive structure. In the last fifty matches, they did not concede many goals.

Weaknesses: Speedy forwards may be able to break down Tunisia's defence as Brazil demonstrated in their recent 5-1 win.

Australia players celebrate after qualifying to the FIFA World Cup. Photo: Reuters/ Mohammed Dabbous

FIFA ranking: 38
Head coach: Graham Arnold

Arnold was Guus Hiddink's deputy at the 2006 World Cup. Although this Australian side lacks the quality of that golden generation, their never-say-die attitude and the ability to play as a cohesive unit make them dangerous. Attacking midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, a member of the Europa League-winning Eintracht Frankfurt, is their key player.

Strengths: Australia's biggest strength is their fighting spirit. Besides, they have one of the fittest squads in the tournament.

Weaknesses: Australia could not find a replacement for the legendary Tim Cahill. Their main strikers - Mathew Leckie and Jamie Maclaren - lack big-match experience.

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