FIFA World Cup 2022: France begins title defence while Argentina and Lionel Messi kick off their campaigns

Didier Deschamps’ squad, which won the 2018 World Cup by overcoming Croatia in the final, is aiming to become the first team to win the championship back-to-back since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

France has been rocked by a slew of injuries, including important midfielders N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, as well as Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who withdrew from the squad in the early hours of Sunday with a thigh ailment, as well as center-back Presnel Kimpembe.

“We still believe in our chances, in our squad. The last-minute withdrawals, especially Karim’s, did not help,” France captain Hugo Lloris told a news conference. “But I want to think that the team will move on.”

Deschamps needs to reshuffle his attacking line in the absence of Benzema, with veteran Olivier Giroud likely to start as a lone forward.

At the back, Deschamps will be able to rely on center-back Raphael Varane, who he says has shaken off a hamstring injury that had prevented him from training with the team last week.

“He is doing well and available for tomorrow’s game,” Deschamps said.

Australia coach Graham Arnold’s plans for their opener with France were hit when winger Martin Boyle pulled out on Sunday with a knee injury.

Boyle has a decent scoring record with five goals from 19 appearances for Australia.

“We all feel for Martin and it is a cruel blow for him,” Arnold said. “He has been an integral part of our journey to get to Qatar.”

Tunisia have two players in the Danish league, Anis Ben Slimane at Brondby and Issam Jebali with Odense.

The latter says he has not been able to provide any special insight into Tuesday’s opponents as the Tunisian technical team have been meticulous in their planning.

“We have a great technical staff and they have prepared well for the game,” Jebali said. “We know the Danish set-up, how they play and even how they think. We have a very good chance, we are a good squad. We are strong, we trust each other and have a good team spirit.”

Denmark’s World Cup opener against Tunisia will be a personal triumph for playmaker Christian Eriksen, who suffered a heart collapse in Denmark’s Euro 2020 opener last year but has since recovered fully.

“We are all happy and thankful that Christian is here after what happened,” Danish captain Simon Kjaer said.

“As a football player, probably one of the best I’m ever seen in terms of quality and love of the game. Every minute he plays, it’s only a plus for Denmark.”

France begins World Cup defence against Australia on Tuesday with kick-off at 8 pm; other game in Group D sees Denmark face Tunisia at 2 pm.

Day Three begins with Argentina and Lionel Messi’s quest to win the World Cup as they start their Group C campaign against Saudi Arabia followed by Mexico versus Poland in the same group.

As Argentina prepares to take on Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi has dispelled rumors of a pre-tournament injury.

Read also: Two goals from Bukayo Saka help England to a 6-2 victory over Iran in the World Cup Group B opener

In recent days, the PSG star has been spotted practicing with padding on his right ankle, but Messi claims he is not carrying anything into the Group C match.

“No issues whatsoever,” said Messi, who was pictured at practice with extra padding on the inside of his right ankle.

“I heard there were rumors of having to miss part of training or be away from the team because of a blow, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard is not worried by two of the squad’s goalkeepers’ lack of playing time this season ahead of their match against Argentina.

Renard did not announce the name of the goalkeeper who will lead the Green Falcons’ starting line-up, but Muhammad Al-Owais has played 42 times for the national team, compared to just seven internationals for Muhammad Al-Yami.

“The goalkeeper who will play tomorrow’s match has played 17 World Cup qualifiers so there is absolutely no problem,” the Frenchman told a news conference on Monday. The third goalkeeper in the squad, Nawaf Al-Aqidi, is still waiting for his debut with the national team.

Renard also stood by his decision to exclude veteran custodian Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who announced his retirement in 2019 before reversing his decision and saying he was available for selection.

Mexico forward Raul Jimenez’s fitness remains a matter of concern ahead of their opener with Poland.

Jimenez has not played for Wolves since August due to a groin injury. He had a 45-minute run-out in a friendly against Sweden last week but appeared to look uncomfortable in a recent training video.

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said: “It is unfair they took five seconds of a video and said he was not good.

“He has looked very good in training. In Raul I see much motivation, hunger and an enormous ambition to be on the field.”

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is backing team-mate Robert Lewandowski to make a huge impact at Qatar 2022.

Despite his prolific record for club and country, Poland striker Lewandowski is yet to score at a World Cup finals.

Speaking at a press conference, Juventus keeper Szczesny said: “It’s definitely a very important tournament to him. I can see that he is very motivated for this championship.

“There is no doubt that he is, if not the best, then one of them. He would like to fulfil his ambitions not only at club level, but also with the national team.

“I hope that years later we will remember Robert’s great performance at the World Cup in Qatar.”

Argentina and Lionel Messi begin their Group C campaign against Saudi Arabia at 11 am; Mexico meets Poland in other Group C opener with kick-off at 5 pm

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