The World Cup Preview: Group D

Group D is a fantastic collection of nations. Two-time World Champions France and former European Championship winners Denmark are, given their stature, expected to walk the group, but an Australia side filled with Scottish influence will certainly be looking to upset the status quo. With Tunisia lurking in the background also, this could be one of the most exciting groups in Qatar.

The current holders of the tournament France have been disappointing of late, struggling in their recent Nations League group containing Group D rivals Denmark – mounting further pressure on head coach Didier Deschamps. Les Bleus has been embroiled in controversy off-the-field in recent months, and I fear they are headed for a potentially disastrous World Cup. Undoubtedly, they have one of the most talented squads at the tournament, including stars such as Raphaël Varane, Edouardo Camavinga, and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema. Despite their star power, do not be surprised to see Les Blues struggle this year, even if they do make it to the knockouts. 

Player to Watch: Kylian Mbappé 

One of the most instantly recognisable players of the modern age, and a World Cup final scorer no less, Kylian Mbappé, is ready to do it all over again. But he doesn’t come without his drama: Mbappé was front and centre of a recent debate with the French National Team regarding his personal image rights and led a boycott over the team photoshoot. Not to mention tension before Euro 2020 with Olivier Giroud, as well as his role as PSG’s golden boy sparking worldwide debate. It will certainly be interesting to see if the 23-year-old can maintain his focus on the pitch – he could be crucial. 

Boasting numerous players from the Scottish Premiership such as Cammy Devlin, Nathaniel Atkinson, Martin Boyle, Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Keanu Baccus, and Aaron Mooy – Australia will be watched with a keen eye here in Scotland. The Socceroos will also be taking former Hibs favourites Jason Cummings and Jackson Irvine on the flight to Qatar, and I am excited to watch them play. Graham Arnold’s side have more than enough to pick up a few points in this group, but their lack of a potent finisher has cost them in recent matches and could ultimately hamper their chances. Nonetheless, I tip them with an outside chance of qualifying if luck falls their way. 

Player to Watch: Mathew Leckie 

With honourable mentions to Mat Ryan and Mooy who will both be imperative in keeping the ball out of one end of the pitch to progressing it up the other, I settled on Mathew Leckie for my player to watch. The 31-year-old has been around for a while now and boasts a decent goal return for his last few clubs. Having that impressive 2014 World Cup campaign got him his move to FC Ingolstadt, and Leckie needs to turn it on one more time in what will likely be his last World Cup. His side desperately needs his contributions in and around the penalty box. 

Denmark have been in top form heading into the World Cup, and I believe they even have enough to win Group D after their performances in the recent Nations League campaign – they tied as Europe’s top qualifiers for the World Cup on 27 points (none other than Scotland costing them invincibility). Many players will contribute to Kasper Hjulman’s side if they are to make a further impact this year, as they rely on Hjulman’s well-oiled tactical machine working as opposed to individual moments of brilliance. However, they aren’t short of options, with their 26-man squad including the likes of Andreas Christensen, Pierre Emile-Hojberg, and Kasper Dolberg. 

An inspiring story sees Christian Eriksen return to the International stage following a tremendous recovery.

Player to Watch: Christian Eriksen 

It is no secret that Eriksen will be imperative to The Danes this year, remarkably returning to the top-level of football after suffering a cardiac arrest during Euro 2020, and starring for Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United. But I am also looking forward to watching former Rangers target, Andreas Skov Olsen, with the 22-year-old in fine form for Club Brugge after his switch from Bologna this January. Players to keep an eye on, for sure, in this Denmark squad brimming with talent.  

Tunisia fans, look away. Despite being the current Kirin Cup holders after an impressive 3-0 win over Japan this June, I fear Group D could be a sobering experience for the Tunisians. They did collect a victory at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but they have not been as lucky to draw a side as weak as Panama this time around. I do not expect Jalel Kadri’s side to collect any points while in Qatar. 

Player to Watch: Wahbi Khazri 

Along with Youssef Msakni and Naïm Sliti, Wahbi Khazri will be looked upon to be a calm and composed figure amidst the madness of what is set to be Group D. Currently, Khazri is Tunisia’s second-best ever goalscorer – trailing the retired Issam Jemâa by 12 goals – and the 31-year-old has a raft of experience in Ligue 1 and briefly the English Premier League. If Tunisia are to stand a chance, Khazri will need to be on top form. 

Predictions: I don’t think this group will be as simple for Denmark and France as it looks on paper. I can see France being run close by Australia for that second qualification spot, and despite fully expecting Denmark to win the group, I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia and Tunisia make these games very tough for them. I would like to see an outsider qualify from this group, and there’s something telling me France could really struggle. What will the magic of the World Cup conjure up in Group D? 

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