Road to Russia: World Cup 2018 – Group C Preview
With the World Cup less than six weeks away, we’re rolling on with our analysis of each group of the competition. Next up, it’s Group C.
Group C features one of the favourites for the competition, the runners of the last EUROs, France. Australia, Denmark and Peru are the other teams that will be hoping to qualify alongside France.
Australia had a rocky road to the finals. Having finished behind Japan and Saudi Arabia in the Asian group, the regional play-offs beckoned. A closer than expected two legged tie against Syria was followed by a first-leg goalless draw with Honduras. The second leg went much better though, with Australia winning 3-1 thanks to a Mile Jedinak hat-trick.
Fans will be hoping for something better than the last World Cup, where Australia lost all three group games.
However, it won’t be easy, as all three teams are currently ranked in the top 12 of the FIFA rankings and the toughest game of all comes first, with Australia facing France on Saturday 16 June.
Tim Cahill is still playing for the Socceroos and scoring goals. The striker scored 11 goals in qualification making him Australia’s top scorer.
Aaaron Mooy is the man who will look to pull the strings in midfield. The midfielder has had a cracking first season in the Premier League with Huddersfield, while fellow Premier League player, goalkeeper Matthew Ryan, has also been impressive and instrumental in keeping his team Brighton in the league for another season.
France have one World Cup to their name after winning the competition on home soil in 1998. Since then, they’ve been runners up at the 2006 World Cup, winners of the 2000 EUROs and also runners up of the last EUROs in 2016.
It’s an impressive record and France are without doubt one of the best teams in the World. Manager Didier Deschamps recently said that his team are still a level behind Germany, Brazil and Spain, but on paper at least, France can compete with anyone. The depth of the French talent means that world class players are in jeopardy of not even making the squad.
Les Bleus are particularly blessed with attacking options but surprisingly only managed to score 18 goals in qualifying. Nevertheless, they overcame a tough group containing Holland and Sweden.
France are hotly tipped for the competition and are fourth favourites at most bookies. They should have no problems getting out of this group, though the games against Australia and Denmark could be tricky. France will kick-off their campaign on Saturday 16 June against Australia.
Pretty much every player in the starting eleven could feature here but Paul Pogba is perhaps the most prominent name in the squad. The midfielder has had a mixed season with Manchester United, but it cannot be argued that on his day he is world class.
Captain Hugo Lloris will man the sticks, while in front of him, Samuel Umtiti is growing into a top class defender. Layvin Kurzawa is an attacking wing-back who will be a thorn in the side of many opponents.
Premier League fans will be well aware of the talents of N’Golo Kante who is perhaps the best defensive midfielder in the world.
Up front, France have bags of options, but it’s likely that the two starters will be Antoine Greizmann slotting in behind the prolific Kylian Mbappe, who will be taking part in his first World Cup.
Peru also made their way to Russia via the playoffs, where they beat New Zealand. Coming out of the South American group is always tough, with high-profile teams such as Chile not making it through this year.
After making it through, Peru will be appearing at their first World Cup since 1982. Manager Ricardo Gareca has done a fantastic job at Los Incas and is adored by the public, despite scoring a goal for Argentina as a player that prevented Peru qualifying for the 1986 World Cup.
Peru’s strength derives not necessarily from individual talents, but from a togetherness and team approach. That said, striker Paolo Guerrero is undoutedly the main man, but could miss out on the competition after testing positive for a chemical by product of cocaine, a charge which the player is currently disputing in court.
As we just mentioned, Paolo Guerrero is the key man for Peru, especially as he is a natural goalscorer and play-maker.
Andre Carillo has been hit and miss at his loan season at Watford in the Premier League, but he has the ability to cause opposition defences problems. Jefferson Farfan, despite being 33 years old, is still a tricky and pacey midfielder.
Denmark could only finish second to Poland in Group E of the European qualification stage, but they made no mistakes in the play-off, beating Ireland comfortably by 5-1 on aggregate.
It’s a return to the world stage for the Danes, who missed out on last year’s World Cup in Brazil. They also missed out in 2006 and failed to get out of the group stage at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
It has not been the best of times for Denmark then, but they have a stronger team now than they have had in recent years. An improved defence was the best in the qualification group, while in Christian Eriksen, the Danes have one of the world’s best creative midfielders.
Denmark have never progressed past the quarter-final and although that is a tough task in this competition, they will be confident of getting out of the group stages at the least. Denmark face Peru in Saransk on 16 June.
Christian Eriksen, as we mentioned above, is the star of this team. The midfielder scored eleven goals – including a hat-trick in the play-off – and was the third highest goal scorer in the European stage.
Andreas Christensen has had a decent first season at Chelsea. The youngster looks set for big things, although his playing time has been reduced of late.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel continues to follow in his father’s footsteps and is a safe pair of hands in goal.
Which teams will qualify?
With most in agreement that France will comfortably top the group qualify, it’s set to be a real fight for the second spot, with all the teams having a realistic chance of claiming it.
Denmark are the favourites to qualify alongside France, followed by Peru and then Australia.
It’s close and extremely tough to call. Our gut says Denmark, so we’ll be going with a bet of Denmark to qualify, which you can get for around 8/13.