Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has laughed off an unflattering admission from France ahead of his side's World Cup Group D clash against the holders on Wednesday morning (AEDT). The Aussies face a difficult task in the opening match of their World Cup campaign against reigning champions France, who have been rocked by a number of injuries ahead of the showdown in Qatar.
Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the tournament through injury, joining the likes of Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante as high-profile players missing from Didier Deschamps' squad.
POWERFUL MOVE: Commentator's outfit goes viral at World Cup
'UTTER DISGRACE': Fury over 'terrible' incident at World Cup
The Socceroos have suffered a big injury blow of their own with influential playmaker Martin Boyle this week ruled out of Qatar after failing to overcome a knee injury. Boyle has not been able to train with the main squad since arriving in Qatar, having injured his knee on October 28 playing for his Scottish club Hibernian.
The Socceroos have summoned Marco Tilio into their 26-man squad to replace Boyle, who Arnold described as "probably one of our best players right through the whole (World Cup qualifying) campaign".
Arnold's men can consider themselves lucky that the injury list is nowhere near as extensive as France's, even if the Les Bleus squad is still littered with world class talent such as Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
France edged the Socceroos 2-1 in their first group game of the World Cup in Russia four years ago, and Deschamps' men have been respectful about the Aussies ahead of Wednesday's match, even if some of the players know very little about Arnold's side.
Defender Ibrahima Konate admitted as much after being asked whether he'd heard of any of the players in the Socceroos squad. The France player responded: “No, not at all. I don’t know any of them."
Arnold was quizzed on what many argue is a lack of respect from the French players towards Australia, with the Socceroos coach offering a playful response to the brutal snub.
“Doesn’t he have Paramount+?” Arnold joked about Konate in a reference to the streaming service that broadcasts A-League games in Australia.
It's not just France that have seemingly written the Aussies off, with bookmakers having the Socceroos as huge $12 outsiders to defeat the World Cup holders. Arnold insists his men won't be overrawed by the occasion and has promised the Aussies will take the fight to the French.
"I know their mentality, that's the biggest thing. They don't step back from anybody, they only know how to look forward and go forward, it doesn't matter who's in front of them," Arnold said of his players.
"And it's not being disrespectful at all but I have hardly mentioned the word 'France' and I have hardly mentioned any of the (French) players' names.
"The players know who they are ... it's 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts and it's a fight."
Socceroos face tough task first up against France
The Socceroos know they're massive underdogs against the World Cup holders, with the task facing Arnold's men that much more difficult after the loss of damaging winger Boyle to injury on the eve of the tournament.
Australia's attacking midfield linchpin Ajdin Hrustic isn't fit enough to start against the French, while Socceroos captain and goalkeeper Mat Ryan, for two years and particularly recently, has struggled to get consistent game time at club level.
The same can be said for defenders Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson who are all returning from recent injury. Arnold has a strike-force of A-League frontmen Jamie Maclaren and Jason Cummings, and Mitchell Duke, from Japan's second-tier.
The Socceroos coach admits his players will need to trust in their process and each other, while doing all the little things right on the pitch against France, to have any chance of shocking the world with a win at Al Janoub stadium.
"It's about believing in yourself. Not just one aspect of the game, whether it's defence or attack," Arnold said.
"The opposition is dangerous when they don't have the ball because of how they are in transition with the counter-attack.
"So we really need to make sure every aspect - in defence, rest defence, build-up, attacking - we need to be on our game. And we will be."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.