FIFA World Cup: France and Australia in pre-quarterfinals

Defending champions France, already through to the knockouts, suffered a 0-1 loss to Tunisia here on Wednesday after nine changes in their starting XI but the African team crashed out of the tournament while Australia finished Group D. In another match, they beat Denmark 1–0 to enter the last 16. World No. 30 Tunisia dominated France for most of the day at Doha’s Education City Stadium as captain Vahbi Khajri netted the team’s first goal of the ongoing tournament in the 58th minute.

This defeat may not have affected the position of France in the group, but certainly this defeat is embarrassing for them. Antoine Griezmann scored for France in the eighth minute of injury time but he was offside and the goal was disallowed. On the other hand, at the Al Zeinob Stadium in Al Wakrah, Australia sent world number 10 Denmark out of the group stage with a 60th-minute strike from Matthew Leckie. Leckie’s goal was the highlight of the match between Australia and Denmark.

Lecki received a pass around the middle of the field and single-handedly continued to break through the Danish defence. He took a left-footed shot from near the opponent’s goal, and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was unable to disallow the ball despite jumping to the left. This is only the third win in the World Cup for Tunisia, playing in the World Cup for the sixth time, and during this time the team could never make it to the knockout stage. His first win was against Mexico in 1978 and the second win was against Panama in Russia four years ago. This was only Australia’s fourth win in 19 World Cup matches, but due to this the team was able to enter the knockouts for the second time after 2006.

France topped Group D with six points from two wins in three matches despite a loss against Tunisia.Australia also have six points from two wins in three matches but the French team is ahead of them on a goal difference of plus three. Australia’s goal difference was minus one. Tunisia ended their campaign in third place with four points from three matches, one win, one draw and one loss, while Denmark reached the semi-finals of the European Championship with one point from three matches, one draw and two losses. Disappointing performance, finished last. France will now face the second-placed team in Group C, while Australia will take on the Group C toppers in the pre-quarterfinals on December 4.

Defending champions France have never won all three of their group stage matches since their first World Cup win in 1998. They won all the three matches of the group stage in 1998 and then won the title. Current coach Didier Deschamps was the captain of the team at that time.Given the performance of both the teams so far, the French team was a strong contender for the victory, but in the current tournament, Kylian Mbappe, who scored three goals, and Olivier Giroud, who scored two goals, also did not include Antoine Griezmann in the starting XI.

Tunisia started the match aggressively and put the French defense under pressure from the start. Nine changes in the starting XI reflected in France’s performance. Tunisia seemed to have sensed the weakness of the French defense line early on and did its best to exploit it. Tunisia scored a goal in the eighth minute but it was ruled offside. Tunisia was awarded a free kick after a foul on Ben Romadhani Ali, on which captain Vahbi Khajri made a brilliant shot.

Khajri’s free kick was headed in by Nadir Ghandari but he was offside and the goal was disallowed. France made a good move in the 25th minute. Yusuf Fofana passed inside the box to Kingsley Coman but his shot on goal was too weak and misdirected. In the 34th minute, Khajri curled a shot from long range that passed between Aurelien Chomainy and French captain Raphael Varane but his shot was saved by goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. Tunisia also made a great move in the 42nd minute. Ennis Salimane lofted the ball towards Khazri but the skipper failed to clear the cross to Elias Skerry in front of the goal as he shot from the right.

In the second half too, Tunisia continued to attack. The team got the advantage in the 58th minute when Fofana’s mistake found the ball to Skerry who passed it to Khajri and Khajri single-handedly made a long run and shot past three defenders to score with a fiery shot. Having taken the lead, Tunisia played defensively as a win in this tie would have put them through to the knockouts if Australia and Denmark draw. A win for Denmark would have left Tunisia with a chance to go to the knockouts. France meanwhile brought on Ousmane Dembele, Griezmann and Mbappe as substitutes.

Read also: FIFA World Cup: Despite defeating Saudi Arabia, Mexico could not reach the knockout

The trio played some attacking football taking advantage of Tunisia’s defensive play but were unable to score. Mbappe had a chance to score in the 89th minute but his sharp shot was thwarted by goalkeeper Aimen Dahmen. A minute later Randle Kolo Muani’s shot went wide of the goalkeeper’s right. Ghandry fouled Mbappe in the second minute of injury time, giving France a free kick from close to the box, but Mbappe could not take advantage of it. In the eighth minute of injury time, Griezmann took advantage of the chaos near the goal to score a goal but it was offside.

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