France v Australia
Saturday, 11:00
Live on BBC1

Exciting attack

Tournament fourth favourites France are expected to progress as Group C winners and they have the ideal opportunity to start with a win against the group outsiders.
Didier Deschamps is expected to line up with a 4-3-3 formation spearheaded by Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé in an exciting attack.
Paul Pogba lines up in midfield alongside Blaise Matuidi with N'Golo Kante as the shield. After an in-and-out season for Manchester United, Pogba's performance may hold the key.
Samuel Umtiti of Barcelona and Real Madrid's Raphael Varane give them a solid heart of defence and Benjamin Mendy has returned to fitness at just the right time to take up his position on the left, with Djibril Sidibe on the right. Perhaps there is a little doubt about Hugo Lloris in goal after some performances for Tottenham last season that fell below his usual standard.

Lack of high-class players

The Socceroos played in last year's Confederations Cup - the warm-up tournament for these finals, featuring eight teams - but are something of an unknown quantity now, following the resignation of coach Ange Postecoglou after the qualifying campaign and the appointment of Bert van Marwijk, who guided the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010.
What we do know is that Van Marwijk is short of high-class players, with Aaron Mooy of Huddersfield Town and Celtic's Tom Rogic among the best of them.
The formation is likely to be 4-2-3-1 with Mat Ryan of Brighton in goal and a probable back four of Joshua Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Aziz Behich and Mark Milligan. The sitting midfielders are Mooy and Massimo Luongo, with Rogic, Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse further forward, and Andrew Nabbout as the lone striker.
Much excitement surrounds 19-year-old striker Daniel Arzani, who is the youngest player at the tournament (by 15 days from Mbappe) and scored off the bench in last week's 2-1 friendly win over Hungary.

Superior firepower

France have scored in all nine matches since their dire goalless draw at home to Luxembourg in September during qualifying and have found the net at least twice in seven of those games, including friendlies against Germany (2-2 away) and Italy (3-1 at home).
That suggests they will have more than enough firepower to take care of Australia, whose best hope appears to lie with Van Marwijk conjuring a spoiling display just like Luxembourg did.
The Socceroos rarely get to play a team in the higher echelons of world football but their recent results against teams currently ranked in the Fifa top 30 is not that encouraging - W0 D2 L3 in the past two years. The draws were 0-0 against Colombia in a friendly in March and 1-1 against Chile in last year's Confederations Cup, while they conceded at least two goals in each of the three defeats.
Some hope is offered by Australia's performance at the Confederations Cup, which also included a 1-1 against Cameroon and a 3-2 defeat by Germany. This month's warm-up results also caught the eye, with wins over Czech Republic (4-0) and Hungary (2-1), although it has to be noted that those opponents are both ranked well below Australia after failing to qualify for these finals.

Group of dearth?

Group C could be a decent shout for lowest-scoring group at 11/2 with Betfair Sportsbook but this looks the best chance for a high-scoring match. That is going to be largely down to how many France manage to score, with serious doubt about whether Australia can breach such a good defence.
That in turn raises doubt about options such as both teams to score and over 2.5 goals. If this is a low scorer, it could set the tone for a dearth of goals in this group.

France to start strongly

Often these early games can be cagey but France have scored well in previous tournaments under Deschamps and they are worth trying at 1.81 on the Asian handicap off 1.5,which pays out if they win by two or more goals.
Using the new Same Game Multi feature in the Sportsbook, an interesting bet is France to win and a goal to be scored in both halves at odds of 1.92.

Key Opta Stats for France v Australia

The last encounter between France and Japan ended in a 6-0 win for Les Bleus in Paris, which included a brace by Olivier Giroud. France are 1.29 to win.
France have qualified for their 15th World Cup. It’s their sixth appearance in a row, their longest ever run. They are 8.60 to win the tournament.
France have topped their group only twice in their last nine World Cup appearances (1998, 2014). You can lay them to win Group C at 1.45.
France have only won one of their last four opening World Cup games (D2 L1), beating Honduras in 2014 (3-0). The draw is 6.60.
Australia have qualified for their fifth World Cup, their fourth in a row. They are rated as the rank outsiders to win Group C at 23.00.
Australia have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup on one occasion, it was in 2006 when they were eliminated in the last-16 by eventual winners Italy. The Socceroos are 5.20 to qualify for the knockout stages.
In fact, Australia have won only two of their 13 games at the World Cup, against Japan in 2006 (3-1) and Serbia in 2010 (2-1), and kept only one clean sheet (0-0 v Chile, 1974). Australia are 12.00 to pull off a shock victory.
Tim Cahill has scored five of Australia’s 11 goals at the World Cup (45%). He’s one of nine players to have scored in each of the last three World Cups. Cahill is [6.5] to score.
This is Didier Deschamps’ third consecutive major tournament as France manager, after reaching the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and the 2016 Euro final (beaten by Portugal after extra-time). France are 4.80 to reach a second successive tournament final.
RECOMMENDED BETS
Back France on the Asian handicap off -1.5 at 1.81

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