World Cup: Jets' Socceroos to learn worth against first-class French

STAR BILLING: France and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. Picture: AP
STAR BILLING: France and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. Picture: AP

FRANCE midfielder Paul Pogba earns more in a week at Manchester United than Andrew Nabbout and Dimi Petratos pocketed for the entire season combined at the Newcastle Jets.

Ditto Atletico Madrid attacker Antoine Griezmann, who along with Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé form a jaw-dropping Les Bleus strike force.

Pay packets between $300,000 and $500,000 a week are the norm for the French legion of big names who call Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint Germain home.

It is another world from the Socceroos, who go about their business at the likes of Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion, the lower tiers in Europe and in the A-League.

The disparity highlights the enormity of the challenge the Socceroos face when they meet France in their opening Group C match of the World Cup in Kazan on Saturday.

Indeed, the Socceroos are $13 outsiders to cause an upset against one of the top fancies to win the tournament. The last meeting between the two countries was a 6-0 thumping to the French in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup, a defeat that cost then Socceroos coach Holger Osieck his job.

France, despite a galaxy of stars, were held to a 1-all draw by the USA, who didn’t qualify for Russia, in their final warm-up game in Lyon on Sunday.

BIG NAME: France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann. Picture: AP

BIG NAME: France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann. Picture: AP

The result was not lost on Griezmann, who scored 29 goals in 49 games to help Atletico finish runner-up in La Liga and win the UEFA Europa League last season. 

"We understand there won't be easy matches at the World Cup for us," he told French sports daily L'Equipe. "Australia and Peru won't be easy rivals.” 

“Denmark, too, won't be boring - we have to be prepared. We will now watch the videos of Australia, and try to beat them. I don't know what happened against the USA, we prepared well. But we still have time to correct mistakes. I trust this team."

The Socceroos, fresh from an unconvincing 2-1 win over Hungary, arrived in Kazan on Monday.

Nabbout, who left the Jets in February to take up a lucrative deal in Japan at Urawa Red Diamonds, is in a battle with Tomi Juric to lead the attack on Saturday.

BIG OPPORTUNITY: Former Newcastle Jets now Urawa striker Andrew Nabbout. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

BIG OPPORTUNITY: Former Newcastle Jets now Urawa striker Andrew Nabbout. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Juric returned from a knee injury, replacing Nabbout at half-time, against Hungary.

Petratos played the final 20 minutes in the 4-0 win over the Czech Republic but did not feature against Hungary and, at best, will be on the bench for the Cup opener.

Jets operations manager Joel Griffiths has no doubts that the Socceroos will relish the underdog tag and believes coach Bert van Marwijk, who led Holland to the 2010 World Cup final, has selected the right squad.

“I am quite optimistic about this game,” he said. “It is good to get France early. I think the coach has it right regarding the mobility in the squad, especially the forwards. Nabbout chases down lost causes and is quite quick and can run off the shoulder. The other guys can do damage as well.”

PUSHING HARD: Newcastle Jets midfielder Dimi Petratos. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

PUSHING HARD: Newcastle Jets midfielder Dimi Petratos. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Griffiths, although not playing at a World Cup, played alongside superstars Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.

“The first week when they joined the team it was like ‘wow, I use to watch this guy bang in goals in the Champions League,” he recalled. “They just ended up being like normal teammates. It is really interesting the stories they tell. When the topic got to sports cars, I used to just shut up.”

While in China, Griffiths also played friendlies against a Lionel Messi-led Barcelona and a Manchester United side boasting Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.

“The World Cup is totally different to a friendly,” Griffiths said. “There is so much riding on it. Most athletes prepare as though the stars are just another human. Try and treat the game as another game. Focus on what you need to do rather than what the other team can do.”

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