World Cup Thoughts – Day Eleven
Groups C and D learn their fates
First of all, a big thanks to FIFA doing these games the wrong way round and having Group D play their final fixtures before Group C. It feels wrong to list these in reverse alphabetical order, but even more wrong to go against the chronology, so it’s D first.
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Stats from FBRef unless otherwise stated
France were already through and almost certain to finish top as long as Australia didn’t manage a huge goal difference swing. They just needed to avoid getting hammered. Tunisia needed to beat France and hope Australia didn’t win, or Denmark didn’t win by enough to qualify on goal difference.
A win would guarantee qualification for Australia. A draw would be enough as long as Tunisia didn’t beat France. Denmark needed to beat Australia, and hope Tunisia either didn’t win or didn’t do so by a bigger scoreline than the Danes.
Owing to France’s safety, Didier Deschamps heavily rotated. Only two players kept their place from the win over Denmark: Raphaël Varane and Aurélien Tchouaméni. This was a very Deschamps sort of selection, going heavy on extra midfielders with Eduardo Camavinga at left back and Mattéo Guendouzi in the front three. I don’t know whether Deschamps was looking at potential approaches for the knockout stages or not.
Either way, he can’t have been impressed by what he saw. I don’t think it matters, but France were extremely flat for most of this game. Kylian Mbappé had more touches in the Tunisia box than any other French player and he only came on after an hour. Thankfully, we’ll never see France play another lineup anything like this for the rest of the tournament. I’m sure the regular starters will benefit from the time off.
Tunisia created one big chance in Wahbi Khazri’s goal, in which it felt like the entire France side just switched off. That was the only really good chance they produced, after which point France got their act together and exerted some control over the game. We could’ve had a whole debate about Antoine Griezmann’s late goal getting ruled out as he came back from an offside position, but the events of the other match spared us this.
Why were Denmark so poor in this tournament? This team has been performing excellently for the last two years, then the World Cup comes along and they can’t get out of first gear. I wish we could know what the players are saying privately, because it’s fascinating that this team just didn’t turn up. In previous games, they were bailed out at times by the quality of their set pieces, but that didn’t even happen here. The Danes only managed two shots from set plays, worth a combined xG of 0.03. There were several times where Christian Eriksen’s free kicks and corners just didn’t go anywhere dangerous.
Australia scored from what was just basic sloppiness as Denmark got caught up the pitch. That’s just the fundamentals of organisation and concentration. The Danes put a lot of pressure on in the second half, but it never led to anything substantive. I don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but Australia are through. They have the third worst xG difference in the tournament so far. A few bounces of the ball go right and they’re into the knockout stages. Now, who are they playing? Oh, right…
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