Australia vs France
12th December, Wednesday, 19:00 IST
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Australia is the team to beat in the 2018 World Cup. The defending World Champions won all three of their league stage encounters and ended top of Pool B with 9 points on board. As a result, they made it straight through to the quarterfinals.
The Kookaburras defeated Ireland 2-1 in their first match, scored 3 past England to win 3-0 in their second, and completely destroyed World Cup debutants China in the third and final pool match.
Govers scored a hat trick, Brand scored a brace, Zalewski, Craig, Hayward, Whetton, Wotherspoon, and Ogilvie scored one goal each in the massive 11-0 over China. After the narrow victory against the Irish, Colin Batch and his troops are back to their best.
On the other hand, it has been nothing less than a dream run for France in the 2018 World Cup. Being the lowest ranked team in the competition, very few would have thought that they would make it to the knockout stages — let alone the quarterfinals.
However, Les Blues have proved everyone wrong and not put a wrong foot forward.
After the 1-2 loss to New Zealand in the opener, France forced a 1-1 draw against Spain. The high point, however, came when they defeated Rio Olympics gold Medalists Argentina 5-3 in the 3rd and final league game. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest upsets in the tournament so far.
Captain Victor Charlet has been exceptional for the Blue outfits. France finished 2nd in Pool A and met China (3rd placed team of Pool B) in the crossover match.
Jeroen Delmee’s boys were dominant in the match and won 1-0 with the goal from Timothee Clement separating the two sides.
France have never had their hands on any major trophy. They have always been the underdogs. However, the way they are playing in this World Cup is a clear reflection of how hard they have worked in training. The friendly matches they played against sides like Belgium and South Africa before landing in Bhubaneshwar also seem to be paying off.
The Kookaburras last met France during the Hockey World League in 2017 and the won the match 3-2. Before that match, the two had met during the 2015 World League and the Australians had demolished Les Blues by defeating them 10-0. The French team has certainly been on the rise since that horrific defeat.
The pressure will be on Les Blues in the quarterfinal fixture. The big question is: can they pull off an upset against the best in the business, Australia?
Form Guide (most recent to oldest, pre-season):
Australia: W W W W L (Excellent form)
France: W W D L L (Average form)
Head to Head (since 2013):
Won by Australia: 3
Won by France: 0
Probable Starting XI:
Tyler Lovell (Goalkeeper), Jeremy Hayward, Matt Dawson, Matthew Swann, Jake Whetton, Daniel Beale, Flynn Ogilvie, Aran Zalewski, Blake Govers, Trent Mitton, Tim Brand
Arthur Thieffry (Goalkeeper), Victor Charlet, Tom Genestet, Victor Lockwood, Hugo Genestet, Francois Goyet, Aristide Coisne, Charles Masson, Timothee Clement, Gaspard Baumgarten, Maximilien Branicki
My Dream XI
Goalkeeper: Arthur Thieffry
The French goalkeeper has been a busy man under the helmet. He made a brilliant save off a Penalty Corner in the crossover match against China and also made a few vital interceptions during the match against Argentina. He will have a busy day in the office against an attacking Australian unit.
Defence: Victor Charlet, Tom Genestet, Matt Dawson, Matthew Swann
One just cannot praise the French captain enough. Victor Charlet scored from a superbly taken drag flick in the game against Argentina. The 25-year-old also found the back of the net in the game against New Zealand but it was for a losing cause. He is one of the few players who has over 100 caps for the national team. It will be interesting to see how he leads his team against Australia, who are currently ranked in first and the most feared team in hockey.
Tom Genestet is the most experienced player in the French team and the only player over 30. The 31-year-old has helped his team clear their lines whenever they have been in danger. The reliable defender’s brilliance was brought to the fore in the game against Argentina.
Matt Dawson and Matthew Swann have both been brilliant and kept things in check at Australia’s backline. Swann is the most experienced defender in the team and also assisted a goal in the match against England. Dawson and Swann’s hard work has ensured that Australia have conceded only one goal so far in their World Cup campaign.
Alternatives: Victor Lockwood/Jeremy Hayward in place of Matt Dawson
Victor Lockwood was exceptional in the game against China and won the player of the match award for fulfilling his defensive duties. He was the architect in the goal scored by Clement.
Jeremy Hayward also has a knack of scoring goals and is threatening whenever Australia win a penalty corner. His drag flicks are precise and hit with a lot of force at the same time.
Midfield: Hugo Genestet, Aran Zalewski, Corey Weyer
Hugo Genestet has been in the thick of things in the French midfield. The 26-year-old has made some brilliant runs and assisted a couple of goals. He was also the one to find the important breakthrough against Argentina in the 18th minute. Genestet constantly caused problems for Vivaldi in that match and helped his team to a wonderful 5-3 victory.
Aran Zalewski, the Australian captain, has led his troops to three victories. The balance in the team is perfect. The 27-year-old also scored a goal in the previous match against China.
Corey Weyer has been the one to control things and start attacks for Australia from the midfield. The 22-year-old scored a goal in the match against England. He also performed well against China and created many good opportunities for his teammates.
Alternatives: Francois Goyet/Aristide Coisne/Charles Masson/Jake Whetton/Flynn Ogilvie/Daniel Beale in place of Aran Zalewski/Corey Weyer
Forward: Blake Govers, Timothee Clément, Tim Brand
The young forward Blake Govers is currently the top scorer in the tournament with 5 goals to his name. The 22-year-old’s hat trick in the match against China was one to be seen. He worked extremely hard for his three goals in that match and also assisted one. The forward has been getting his drag flicks right and his tremendous form could not have come at a better time for the Kookaburras.
Timothee Clément is proving to be one talented forward for France. The 18-year-old scored an important goal against Spain in the league stage. His most important goal, however, came in the crossover match against China as it proved to be the winner. It was a neat finish by the youngster. He will be raring to do well against Australia as that will be the biggest challenge of his career so far.
Tim Brand will be high on confidence as he scored a lovely brace in the last league game against China. The 20-year-old also scored the winning goal in the opening fixture against Ireland. The coach Colin Batch has bestowed a lot of faith in him and he will be delighted with what he has got back in return.
Alternatives: Dylan Wotherspoon/Tom Craig/Trent Mitton/Gaspard Baumgarten in place of Tim Brand.
Captain: Blake Govers
Vice-captain: Victor Charlet
Player to watch out for: Blake Govers
Young Blake Govers has played with maturity beyond his age. He has the best goal per game ratio for Australia and is currently beaming with confidence after good outings for his team in all three of their league matches.
The 22-year-old has found the back of the net at least once in all three games and will look to continue his goal-scoring spree when The Kookaburras clash against France in the all-important quarterfinal match.