Now, regret is the wrong word, but it’s very easy to look very silly doing this. Here are the other groups, in case you want to see just how wrong I am. A point of note: after the groups, these will be updated to show who really was the best player of each team in the group stages. Group A, Group B and Group C are here.
France – Olivier Giroud
Speaking of legends of the game… Yes, Giroud is France’s most important player and I’m not having it any other way, I’m having Olivier. Despite Karim Benzema also being quite good at kicking a football in the right direction, Giroud’s ability to attract defenders – with his movement, or perhaps his perfume – while the other blue worker bees buzz around him is something that Deschamps values highly in his side. He is on his way to being France’s all-time top goal scorer, even if a large contingent of the French fan base doesn’t like the idea of that happening.
Only two players have ever scored 50+ goals in the history of the French Men’s national team:
◎ Thierry Henry
◉ Olivier Giroud
Somewhere, Arsene Wenger is smiling. 😊
— Squawka (@Squawka) November 22, 2022
Australia – Matt Ryan
Ah, Australia. Let’s see how they get on playing upside down, as they do. Matt Ryan will no doubt need to be in top form if his team is to get anything positive from the Group Stage, as the rest of the team is, let’s say, limited in quality. Australia will most likely sit deep and have it tough against all three sides at the World Cup so the Copenhagen goalkeeper (no, I didn’t know he was there, either) will be the main focus for the Socceroos.
Denmark – Joakim Mæhle
What’s the opposite of a ‘dark horse’? That’s what Denmark are anyway and Joakim Mæhle is a key part of this side that reached the semi-final Euro 2020. OK, the real answer is probably Eriksen but that’s too obvious for this list (says the guy who picked Messi and Lewandowski) so I’ve gone with Mæhle, Atalanta’s marauding left-back who will give a huge attacking presence down the left side. Keep an eye on him. Did I say Gakpo was my one to watch? Watch this guy, too.
Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri
Yes, that Khazri.
No? OK. The ex-Sunderland winger now plies his trade in Ligue 1 with Montpellier and, well, is very good at free kicks. He’s scored two goals so far this season (none of them free kicks) but he wears the number 99 shirt at club level, which is just delightful. He will definitely need to provide the spark for Tunisia in this difficult group if they have any hope of progressing, although on paper it does look very unlikely.
Group D fixtures
22 November: Education City Stadium: Denmark 0- 0 Tunisia 08:00 am ET / 05:00 am PT
22 November: Al Janoub Stadium: France-Australia 02:00 pm ET / 11:00 am PT
26 November: Al Janoub Stadium: Tunisia-Australia 05:00 am ET / 02:00 am PT
26 November: Stadium 974: France-Denmark 11:00 am ET / 08:00 am PT
30 November: Al Janoub Stadium: Australia-Denmark 10:00 am ET / 07:00 am PT
30 November: Education City: Tunisia-France 10:00 am ET / 07:00 am PT