Australia have been depicted as brutish battlers by French stars Kylian Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe ahead of Saturday’s World Cup meeting between the billion-dollar Les Bleus and the penny farthing Socceroos.
In a ploy possibly aimed at putting match officials in Kazan on alert and attracting extra protection for Didier Deschamps’ razzle-dazzle minstrels, the duo were damning in their appraisal of Bert van Marwijk’s men.
Star PSG striker Mbappe - who declared himself “100 per cent fit” to menace Australia as part of a three-pronged forward line - didn’t mince his words when asked what approach he expects from the green and gold.
“It will be a difficult game,” he pronounced. “Australia are a very rough and physical team who will make it hard for us to play.
“They have a lot of desire but they will also play as the outsider against us.
“They’re a team that has absolutely nothing to lose.”
Mbappe’s PSG teammate, 22-year-old defender Kimpembe was equally uncomplimentary when asked to assess the merits, or otherwise, of the Socceroos.
“For sure, we’re expecting a very rough approach from them,” he said.
“They will be competing hard into every duel and they will have a big physical presence about them.”
Deschamps had his squad view video footage of the recent Socceroos warm-ups against the Czech Republic and Hungary to provide an in-depth foretaste of what to expect.
And, if the views of Mbappe and Kimpembe are reflective of the rest of their teammates, France will expect to be in for a fight in the most literal sense.
While the French are confident their star power will be too much for Australia to handle, a sense of relief is pervading the camp after Mbappe was declared injury free following the training ground scare which saw him crumple under the challenge of defender Adil Rami clutching his ankle.
It’s expected Mbappe will take his place in a threatening front three, alongside Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele.
It’s fair to surmise the trio will keep Australia’s likely back four of Aziz Behich, Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan and Josh Risdon fully occupied. Not to mention keeper Mat Ryan.
Providing the ammunition from deep will be the midfield triumvirate of Paul Pogba - whose fitful form has infuriated fans - Chelsea’s tireless N’Golo Kante and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso.
Keeper Hugo Lloris will be protected by a back four comprising Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti and Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez.
Though the French are expecting most of the action to be at the other end they are notoriously slow out of the blocks at major tournaments, a trait Australia hopes continues on Saturday.