Let’s be honest from the start, France is heading to Russia this summer with a very favorable draw. Didier Deschamps’s side landed in Group C along with Australia, Peru and Denmark.
June 16: France versus Australia in Kazan; Peru versus Denmark in Saransk
June 21: France versus Peru in Ekaterinburg; Denmark versus Australia in Samara
June 26: Denmark versus France in Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow; Australia versus Peru in Sochi
France is looking for the same magic they had twenty-years ago as they prepare for this summer’s World Cup. The team is filled with talented superstars including Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Lemar and N’Golo Kante. One of the best teams on paper, Les Bleus should win their group with ease and make a run through the tournament.
Manager Didier Deschamps has high expectations for his team. Despite falling short to Portugal at the Euro 2016 Finals, this experienced squad finished top of their group in the qualifiers, losing only one match to Sweden. The 1998 champions are eyeing a second World Cup trophy, anything less may be seen as a disappointment.
Their toughest opponent in the group will be Peru, who qualified for the first time in 36 years. Peru’s road to Russia came via a playoff against New Zealand after finishing fifth in South America. Currently 11th in the FIFA world rankings, and ahead of Denmark who is 12th, this will be the key battle for second place.
Team captain Paolo Guerrero scored six goals during their qualifiers, and will return in time for the World Cup after a shortened six month ban. Several of the team’s top players are currently playing in the Mexican league including defender Luis Advincula, goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, strikers Raul Ruidiaz and Andy Polo and midfielder Pedro Aquino. Manager Ricardo Gareca has made the squad more organized all around and hopes to shine a bright light on the South American nation this summer.
Peru’s toughest opponent will be Denmark who has Tottenham Hotspur star Christian Eriksen. The Dane scored 11 goals and had three assists during the qualifiers, and his brilliant hat-trick led Denmark past the Republic of Ireland during the European play-off. His manager, Age Hareide, will be leading Denmark to their fifth World Cup and needs Eriksen to continue to elevate his game as he did during the qualifiers.
This has been one of the most improved teams in Europe, and they’ve done it fairly quickly. While they have not participated in a large scale tournament since the European Championships in 2012, the team has high ambitions. Denmark has gone unbeaten in 11 games since losing consecutive matches against Montenegro and Poland in October 2016. Coming out of Group C is their main priority and they will be looking for good fortune this summer.
Australia will have a difficult time scraping any points in this group, and will likely return home at the bottom of Group C. The Aussies are currently ranked 39th in the world and have little hope this summer in Russia. The Socceroos’ qualified through the Asian play-off where they beat Syria in extra-time, followed by Honduras.
Tim Cahill has been the top player for Australia for many years and is heading to his fourth World Cup. The forward netted 11 goals on the road to Russia and appears to get better with age. Cahill could become one of the few players to score at four World Cups.
Another key player will be captain Mile Jedinak, who returned from injury and score a hat-trick against Honduras in the final qualifier. Despite their best efforts by the Socceroos this summer, it won’t be enough to advance out of their group.
Prediction: France to top the group, Peru to finish second while Denmark and Australia to miss out on the Round of 16.