World Cup: Australia to face France, Denmark and Tunisia if they win UAE and Peru qualifier playoffs


Australia could face France, Denmark and Tunisia at the 2022 World Cup if they navigate their way past United Arab Emirates and Peru in qualifying playoffs over the summer, Friday’s draw has confirmed.

The Socceroos missed out on automatic qualification for this year’s showpiece, which gets underway in Qatar on November 21.

Graham Arnold’s side finished third in Asian Qualifying Group B after winning just four of their 10 qualifying fixtures, yet that means they are still in with a chance of reaching the tournament.

Australia have discovered their potential opponents at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

The Socceroos could join a group containing world champions France at the tournament

The Socceroos could join a group containing world champions France at the tournament

To do so, they must first get past Group A’s third-place team UAE in a fourth-round fixture on June 7, which is taking place in Doha, the Qatari capital, three months later than scheduled due to the disruptive effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Should they emerge victorious from that tie, Australia will then lock horns with Peru – who finished fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying – in an intercontinental playoff on June 13/14.

The winner of that playoff will book their place in Qatar, and on Friday all three teams still in contention discovered their potential World Cup opponents.

After being seeded in pot four, which includes the lowest ranked teams, either Australia, UAE or Peru were drawn in Group D alongside Denmark, Tunisia and reigning world champions France.

Graham Arnold's side still have to come through two qualifying fixtures to secure their place

Graham Arnold’s side still have to come through two qualifying fixtures to secure their place

They face UAE in the fourth round of Asian Qualifying on June 7, with an intercontinental playoff against Peru to come for the winner

They face UAE in the fourth round of Asian Qualifying on June 7, with an intercontinental playoff against Peru to come for the winner

Whichever side emerges from those playoffs will join a World Cup group containing France

Whichever side emerges from those playoffs will join a World Cup group containing France

Christian Eriksen in action for Denmark

Hannibal Mejbri of Tunisia in action

Denmark and Tunisia were the other teams draw in Group D at this year’s tournament

Whichever side emerges from the qualifying playoffs will have their work cut out in Qatar, with France currently third in the FIFA Rankings and desperate to defend their crown.

Denmark are 12th in the rankings, while Tunisia find themselves in 35th. 

Of the three teams hoping to secure qualification, Peru are ranked in 22nd, Australia are in 42nd and UAE are down in 68th.  

The victor will take on France in their opening group-stage fixture on Tuesday 22 November, before facing Tunisia four days later.

Their final outing will then come against Denmark on Wednesday 30 November. 

If they want to be the team in question, Australia must turn their miserable run of recent form around when they collide with UAE on June 7.  

Despite losing their last two matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia and missing out on direct qualification as a result, Football Australia have confirmed that Arnold will remain in his position as head coach until the end of their World Cup campaign.

All three sides learnt their potential fate at this year's showpiece in Friday's World Cup draw

All three sides learnt their potential fate at this year’s showpiece in Friday’s World Cup draw

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Arnold, who has spent four years in charge of the Socceroos, is being offered short-term stability in the role after a concerning return of just six points from their last seven qualifying matches plunged his future into doubt.

But Chair of Football Australia Chris Nikou said on Wednesday: ‘The Board of Football Australia believed it was important that we provided a stable environment and to get on with planning for the play-off phase given the very short turn-around. 

‘By confirming that Graham will remain Head Coach of the Socceroos until the completion of our FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 campaign, it enables Graham, his support staff and the playing group to move forward with certainty, and without delay, to ensure the best possible preparation for the next phase of qualification.’

SPORTSMAIL’S GUIDE TO AUSTRALIA’S OPPONENTS

France

Who’s the manager?

Didier Deschamps – The 53-year-old has seen it all in international management having been in charge of Les Bleus since 2012. He has scaled the heights of World Cup glory before and will be confident of defending their title with a squad littered with stars at his disposal.

France went into Euro 2020 as world champions but Deschamps and his tactics came in for huge criticism when they were stunned by Switzerland on penalties in the last 16. He managed to keep his job but you’d think it will be curtains if they don’t reach at least the semi-finals in Qatar.  

Who’s the star man?

Kylian Mbappe – If there was any doubt then Mbappe has proven himself to the main man for France in recent months. His stunning first goal against South Africa in midweek shows the confidence running through his veins.

The PSG star also loves a major tournament and has chalked up four goals and three assists in 11 tournament appearances. It is also a boost for Mbappe to have Karim Benzema supporting him in attack, as he did at Euro 2020.

How did they qualify?

France were comfortable qualifiers in the end but they didn’t have it all their own way. The finished top of their group unbeaten, with 18 points after five wins and three draws.

But Ukraine were only six points behind in second place and they claimed two impressive draws in their pair of games with the French. Deschamps’ side also drew at home with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Chance of winning the trophy – 5/5

Didier Deschamps and France will be desperate to defend their crown out in Qatar

Didier Deschamps and France will be desperate to defend their crown out in Qatar

Denmark

Who’s the manager?

Kasper Hjulmand – It felt like the Danes’ inspirational coach became the unofficial leader of the country last year when Christian Eriksen suffered his shocking cardiac arrest in their Euro 2020 clash with Finland.

Hjulmand led with such authority and strength during that horrific period and then had the ability to dust his team down and lead them to the semi-finals on a wave of emotion – where they lost to England by a controversial penalty.  

Hjulmand’s playing career ended when he was just 26 after nine knee operations but he was soon making a name for himself on the touchline and now he’s wanted by a string of top clubs around Europe.

Who’s the star man?

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – It would have been easy to say Christian Eriksen, given the way he has recovered from that awful day last summer and is back playing and scoring in the Premier League and for his national team.

But, like at Tottenham, Hojbjerg is the understated star of the Danish team and does the dirty, gruelling work in midfield that allows the more creative players around him to flourish.

How did they qualify?

Denmark were run close by Scotland in Group F but always had Steve Clarke’s side at arm’s length and secured top spot with nine wins from 10, 30 goals scored and just three conceded.

Their qualifying campaign included an 8-0 demolition of Moldova in Herning while a 4-0 win away in Austria was the pick of their results. Scotland got the better of them at Hampden in November, but that was the only blip.

Chance of winning the trophy – 2/5

Should he be picked, Christian Eriksen's remarkable return will be a great story for Denmark

Should he be picked, Christian Eriksen’s remarkable return will be a great story for Denmark

Tunisia

Who’s the manager?

Jalel Kadri – Tunisia currently have a temporary coach in charge of the national team, with Mondher Kebaier replaced after the Africa Cup of Nations a few months ago as he battled with Covid-19. 

Kadri – who was Kebaier’s assistant manager – is Tunisia’s fourth coach since Nabil Maaloul was in charge at the 2018 World Cup, when they of course lost to England in the dying stages of their opening group game.  

Who’s the star man?

Ellyes Skhiri – The Cologne midfielder was named Tunisian Footballer of the Year in 2021 and has made 45 caps since making his debut in 2018, scoring three goals. 

Also watch out for former Sunderland forward Wahbi Khazri – currently at Saint-Etienne – and Manchester United youngster Hannibal Mejbri, who has already made 12 caps at the age of 19. 

How did they qualify?

Having finished top of Group B in the second round of African qualifying, two points clear of Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia faced Mali in a two-legged play-off in the past week for a place in Qatar. 

Having won the first-leg in Mali 1-0 courtesy of an own-goal by Moussa Sissako, a goalless draw in Tunis was enough for unfancied Tunisia to qualify for a second-consecutive World Cup.  

Chance of winning the trophy – 1/5

Tunisia secured their passage to a second-consecutive World Cup with a play-off win vs Mali

Tunisia secured their passage to a second-consecutive World Cup with a play-off win vs Mali 



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