With the FIFA World Cup set to kick off in a couple of weeks, we bring you the lowdown of Group C, which comprises of France, Australia, Peru and Denmark.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is nearly upon us, with just over a couple of weeks left for the long-awaited 32-team extravaganza to begin. The group stage will be the very first round of the competition, and before it all kicks off, The Hard Tackle will bring to you a preview of each of the groups.
Today, we take a look at Group C, which comprises of one of the pre-tournament favourites France, and a host of other nations that are likely to compete hard for the runners-up spot. Here’s an analysis of each of the teams and their chances of making the Round of 16.
Group C – France, Australia, Peru and Denmark
June 16: France vs Australia; Peru vs Denmark
June 21: Denmark vs Australia; France vs Peru
June 26: Australia vs Peru; Denmark vs France
The group stage elimination in 2010 was perhaps the lowest ebb for France in their recent World Cup history, especially considering the previous edition had seen them reach the final. But, Les Bleus have moved on well from that disappointment, and are now once again a force in world football.
The side has made steady progress under the tutelage of Didier Deschamps, reaching the quarter-finals in the 2014 edition in Brazil before becoming the losing finalists at Euro 2016. At Russia 2018, France will be looking to go one better, and Deschamps certainly has the means to make it happen.
The manager has been bestowed with perhaps, the most talented group of players in the world, and his embarrassment of riches has seen several high profile candidates miss the flight to Russia, several of whom are likely to make most other teams participating in the World Cup.
The squad that Deschamps has picked though, is well settled, with most players playing alongside each other since last World Cup. A side packed full of flair players who will be expected to score goals aplenty, France are unsurprisingly one of the favourites to win the World Cup, and should negotiate an easy group quite comfortably.
Key Players: Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann
Two close friends, who are known in the football world for their admirable camaraderie. The duo will be key to Les Bleus‘ fortunes and their fine understanding on and off the pitch could come in handy. While Pogba will be part of the build-up play, Griezmann is likely to be at the end of the moves, where his finishing abilities will be called upon.
Australia have made it a habit to qualify for the World Cup, having made the finals of the last four editions. During this 12-year period, the Socceroos have emerged as a dominant force in Asian football, reaching the final of the last two editions, going all the way in 2015.
But, the Aussies head into this World Cup in a spot of bother, having needed a play-off win over Honduras to finally book their ticket for Russia. World Cup qualification also came with a price, with head coach Ange Postecoglou stepping down at the end of the campaign.
Bert van Marwijk, who famously guided Netherlands to the final of the 2010 edition, was appointed as Postecoglou’s replacement in January. Understandably, with mere months given to him before the group stages commence, the Dutchman is yet to identify his best side and has already come under heavy criticism.
Veteran striker Tim Cahill, who is without a club at the moment, may have scored one of the goals of the tournament in 2014, but was a controversial selection ahead of in-form front-man Jamie Maclaren. With van Marwijk having little time to settle, Australia are easily one of the weaker sides heading into the finals and could be taking an early flight back home.
Key Players: Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy
One thing that’s going in van Marwijk’s favour is the fact that he has an experienced squad at his disposal, with the duo of Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy putting up base in the middle of the park. Jedinak will don the double role of being the Socceroos’ captain as well as the anchor man in midfield.
The veteran’s abilities on the dead-ball will also come in handy, with Australia one of the most dangerous outfits in such situations. Mooy, on the other hand, will give Jedinak company in midfield, while also taking charge of setting the tempo of the game and building up plays for his side. Look out for his long-range thunderbolts.
The surprise package in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers, Peru edged out the more fancied Ecuador, Paraguay and fierce rivals Chile en route to sealing a place in the intercontinental play-offs, where they met and defeated New Zealand.
In what was an eye catching World Cup qualifiers in South America, Peru only had to draw their final game against Colombia after Chile were beaten 3-0 by Brazil on the same day. And they did so in controversial fashion as Paolo Guerrero scored from an indirect free-kick courtesy an error by David Ospina in the Colombian goal.
After allaying accusations of possible match fixing, there was further controversy in store, with captain Paolo Guerrero, the same player who had scored the play-off clinching goal, banned for after testing positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.
The ban had initially been set at 12 months before FIFA reduced it to 6 months, giving Guerrero hope to make the World Cup. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport has now increased the ban to 14 months, thereby dashing the Peru captain’s hopes of participating in his first World Cup.
The absence of the team’s talisman will be a huge blow to the South American nation upon returning to the big stage for the first time in 36 years. But, manager Ricardo Gareca will look to rally a tight-knit group to go past the group stage.
Key Player: Renato Tapia
With captain Paolo Guerrero missing, a lot of the burden will fall on the midfield to keep things tight in the middle and shield a vulnerable defensive unit. This is where Renato Tapia will come in – a player who has been hailed as one of the most exciting young talents in South America, and one of the few from his country that is playing in Europe.
The 22-year-old is known for his solid presence in front of the backline while also being assured on the ball. Tapia will have a lot of responsibilities on his young shoulders and an inspired campaign could see the big clubs turning their attention towards him.
One of the most improved teams heading into the World Cup, Denmark have been on a constant rise under the tutelage of Age Hareide, who took over from long serving manager Morten Olsen in December, 2015.
Over the last 30 months, the Danes have have become a solid side that is more than capable of holding its own even against the biggest of opponents. Possession-based football was swiftly discarded in favour of a more direct approach, with the focus on quick transition and pragmatic defending.
With a favourable draw complementing their rise, Denmark will fancy their chances of equalling their performance in the 2002 edition, and maybe even the one from 1998, when they had enjoyed their best ever World Cup campaign.
Unbeaten in 11, Hareide & co. are riding high on a wave of confidence, which also saw them dispatch the Republic of Ireland 5-1 en route to booking their place at Russia 2018. One of the teams to look out for heading into the tournament.
Key Players: Christian Eriksen and Simon Kjaer
Eriksen has come a long way since being the youngest player on the field at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The playmaker is now Denmark’s talisman, pulling the strings in the final third while also scoring bagful of goals himself. The Tottenham superstar was his side’s top scorer in the Qualifiers, with 11 goals to show for his efforts.
If Eriksen will be the key man in attack, defence will be Denmark’s forte, with Simon Kjaer marshalling his troops at the back. The Sevilla man has been a part of a formidable back-four under Hareide, and will need to keep it all together when the more fancied opponents come their way this World Cup.
Likely to Qualify: France and Denmark
France should have an easy time negotiating Group C, with Denmark the only side that looks capable of holding its own against their fellow Europeans. The fight for second spot though, is likely to be exciting, with Peru bringing some South American flair, Australia being an unpredictable outfit and Denmark on a high.
Defensive strength is likely to be a key factor as the three sides look to qualify for the Round of 16, which is where Denmark are miles ahead of Peru and Australia. As a result, it should be a successful return to the World Cup for De Rod-Hvide.