World Cup Group D preview

Just nine days until the World Cup kicks off! We’re continuing our preview series with a look at Group D. If you haven’t yet, join our World Cup predictor challenge at Fotmob.

World Cup Previews

GROUP A | GROUP B | GROUP C


France 🇫🇷 (FIFA Ranking: 4)

How they got here

France, the reigning champions after their 2018 win, topped Group D in UEFA qualifying, taking 18 points from eight matches and finishing with a +15 goal difference. Although they faced a fairly weak group, with only Ukraine the other legitimate contender for qualification, they conceded just three goals during qualifying.

The outlook

On paper, this is one of, maybe the, best team in international football. They were dominant in the latter stages of the 2018 World Cup, and you could make a case that they’ve only gotten stronger since.

But stop me if you’ve heard this before… injuries. France are some key, key pieces. N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba, the starting duo in 2018, are both out with injuries. Defenders Raphaël Varane and Lucas Hernandez, midfielders Boubacar Kamara, Youssouf Fofana and Aurélien Tchouaméni, and forward Anthony Martial are all injured and in a race to be fit in time. All would have strong cases to play significant minutes if healthy. 

Manager Didier Deschamps has been at the helm since 2012 and has dealt with more than an injury crisis in his time – it’s never simple with the French national team – but being literally hamstrung by injuries may be a bridge too far.

There are still plenty of elite options in this squad. 23-year-old forward Kylian Mbappé was the breakout star of 2018 and is one of the best attackers in the world, partnered with a resurgent Karim Benzema, back in the squad after a five-year absence due to a sex scandal involving him alledgedly blackmailing a teammate with a sex tape… like I said, it’s never simple with this team.

Anyway, Benzema is back and just won the Balon d’Or, the award for the best player in world football. There’s still plenty of quality in the squad, with Eduardo Camavinga a favorite to break out. But this side is much less of a sure thing than they should be.

Key players

Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)

Predicted XI (3-4-1-2)

Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Jules Koundé, Presnel Kimpembe; Kingsley Coman, Eduardo Camavinga, Adrien Rabiot, Theo Hernandez; Antoine Griezmann; Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema

Predicted group finish

2nd.

They’re still a favorite to win it all, but they’re wildly injured, have historically been filled with drama, and don’t always find their best form until later in the tournament. It would take a catastrophic Elon-Musk-buying-Twitter-level meltdown for them to get knocked out in the group stage, but don’t be surprised if Denmark sneak ahead of them.

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+600


Australia 🇦🇺 (FIFA Ranking: 38)

How they got here

Australia finished third in Group B of Asian World Cup qualifying, taking 15 points from 10 games and finishing behind automatic qualifiers Saudi Arabia and Japan. As the third place finishers, the Socceroos were sent to the fourth round, where they knocked off the United Arab Emirates in a tight 2-1 game, before beating Peru on penalties in the intercontinental playoff to punch their ticket to Qatar.

The outlook

This Australia side is thin, without a ton of difference makers to begin with. On top of that, they’re injured. Center back Kye Rowles, right back Nathaniel Atkinson and midfielder Ajdin Hrustic have all missed significant time this fall with injuries. Hrustic especially is a crucial injury. A key playmaker for Australia, the Hellas Verona midfielder last played on October 16, and has been frantically battling back from an ankle injury to be fit for Qatar.

This side struggle to score goals, and in fact, they scored just one goal in four qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom qualified for the World Cup. Aaron Mooy is a nice midfielder, developing in the Manchester City academy and spending time with Brighton in the Premier League, but Australia don’t have much high-end quality in midfield, or in the squad as a whole.

They’re primarily based out of Australia’s domestic league with a handful of players scattered around various European leagues. Wilder things have happened at World Cups before, but Australia will be hard pressed to get a win in a tough, tough group.

If they advance and get into a penalty shootout, though… what a weapon they have.

Key players

Aaron Mooy (Celtic), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City), Matthew Ryan (Copenhagen), Ajdin Hrustic (Hellas Verona)

Predicted XI

4-1-4-1: Matthew Ryan; Nathaniel Atkinson, Bailey Wright, Kai Rowles, Aziz Behich; Aaron Mooy; Mathew Leckie, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Martin Boyle; Mitchell Duke

Predicted group finish

4th.

This is a tough group, and Australia are heavy underdogs. Getting a win would be an impressive result. Advancing to the Round of 16 would be miraculous.

Odds to win World Cup:

+40000


Denmark 🇩🇰 (FIFA Ranking: 10)

How they got here

The Danes handily won UEFA Group F, taking 27 points from 10 games, tied with Germany for the most points in Europe. Their +27 goal difference was the third-best in European qualifying, behind only England (+36) and Germany (+32).

The outlook

Denmark were one of the major surprises of Euro 2020. After Christian Eriksen terrifyingly suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch in their opening match against Finland, the Danes shockingly advanced to the semi finals, losing in extra time to England.

Miraculously, Eriksen is back after a near-death experience. The 30-year-old is a regular for Manchester United, and will be vital to Denmark’s success in Qatar. But Denmark aren’t a one man show. They’re elite defensively, with captain Simon Kjær leading a backline that conceded just three goals in qualifying.

This side are a true dark horse. They were in a UEFA Nations League group with France and beat them twice. They’re heading to Qatar with a real shot to make a splash.

Key players

Christian Eriksen (Manchester United), Simon Kjær (AC Milan), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham), Martin Braithwaite (Espanyol)

Predicted XI (3-4-3)

Kasper Schmeichel; Andres Christensen, Simon Kjær, Joachim Andersen; Joakin Mæhle, Thomas Delaney, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Rasmus Kristensen; Christian Eriksen, Mikkel Damsgard, Martin Braithwaite

Predicted group finish

1st.

The Danes are capable of stunning France in the group stage, and if they can knock of the reigning champions on November 26, they’ll have a fantastic opportunity to win the group. In the knockout stage, they’ll be a nightmare matchup for essentially every side at the tournament.

Don’t sleep on Denmark!

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+2800


Tunisia 🇹🇳 (FIFA Ranking: 30)

How they got here

It was smooth sailing for Tunisia in qualifying. They topped an easy group with 13 points from six games, before beating Mali in the playoff.

The outlook

Tunisia have some exciting young players in their squad. Center back Montassar Talbi has emerged as a key player for Lorient, who have taken Ligue 1 by storm this season. Hannibal Mejbri is another name to watch. The 19-year-old has been a standout in the Manchester United academy, and made his Premier League debut last season. He’s currently on loan with Championship outfit Birmingham City, and is one of the more exciting prospects in a historic youth development system.

This team haven’t had to take on any high-quality opponents, though. Their qualifying campaign was, quite simply, ridiculously easy. The played Brazil in a friendly and were beaten 5-1. Lots of teams lose to Brazil, but also not many teams advance out of a group with Denmark and France. Expectations should be realistic for this team.

On the plus side, their nickname is the freaking Eagles of Carthage! Pretty sick.

Key players

Youssef Msakni (Al-Arabi), Saîf-Eddine Khaoui (Clermont), Ellyes Skhiri (1. FC Köln), Ali Maâloul (Al Ahly), Bilel Ifa (Kuwait SC)

Predicted XI (4-3-3)

Bechir Ben Said; Ali Maâloul, Montassar Talbi, Bilel Ifa, Mohamed Dräger; Aïsssa Laïdouni, Ellyes Skhiri, Ferjani Sassi; Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri, Anis Ben Slimane

Predicted group finish

3rd.

Tunisia are good enough to beat Australia, but they’ll really struggle against France and Denmark. Getting a result and finishing in third place is a respectable result.

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+40000


Make sure to check back tomorrow for our preview of Group E, and don’t forget to join our bracket challenge!

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids.

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