The third group we’ll focus on before Thursday, June 14th’s tournament kick-off will be Group C. It features an elite French side, two teams that could cause some difficulty in Peru and Denmark, and then an Australian squad that likely won’t have much to offer. It’s another intriguing group, especially when it features a team as talented, yet dysfunctional as Les Bleus of France.
The Peruvians and Danes are still relative unknowns on the world stage, but both endured impressive qualifying runs. Meanwhile, the Australians are under new leadership at the managerial position, and they’ll have to really impress in order to advance. As always, read on below for team breakdowns and previews for these Group C squads at Russia 2018. Betting picks on all games will commence with Russia vs. Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
*Odds posted are ‘To Win Group’
Similar to Group B with the Spaniards, this is France’s group to lose. It won’t happen though. Despite a ton of uncertainty in lineups and tactical deployment in the weeks leading up to the tournament, Didier Deschamps’ side has far more talent than any team in this group, and are probably the most skilled squad at this year’s World Cup. There are absolutely no holes or glaring weaknesses within the group, and really the biggest questions entering Russia 2018 will be surrounding what formation the team uses, and which star players will need to begin the tourney sitting on the bench.
Their pre-World Cup form has not been ideal. A surprisingly dull draw to the United States this past weekend rightly has supporters concerned, but I think this is a group that should get better as the tournament progresses. Once individual players find their roles, and Deschamps decides on a style and strategy – France is capable of winning any type of match.
In goal, they’re secure with the veteran Hugo Lloris. After years of defensive vulnerability, Les Bleus have finally got that area settled with the tandem of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti. In the midfield, N’Golo Kante will continue to be a workhorse, winning every ball that comes his way, while Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi will provide the required service and attacking punch. Up front, it’ll likely be some sort of combination between one of the game’s best finishers in Antoine Griezmann, and his partners Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe meanwhile is probably the best player your casual soccer fan does not know much about. Watch him in this tournament as his creativity and attacking flair really tends to drive the French forward.
This is a team that should easily cruise through this group, and despite not having a set formation or lineup, they’ll get by in a shortened tournament based off of their talent. Once they enter the knockout stages, they will need a more team-centred approach if they are to reach their full potential. They’re candidates to hoist the trophy on July 14th in Russia.
The Danes enter this group with a surprising amount of talent. They are one of those teams with one dominant figure within the squad, and everybody else kind of just fills in – but it works. That feature talent, of course, is Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. The dynamic midfielder will need to be on the top of his game if the Danes are going to progress, as they’ll certainly face tough competition from a reinvigorated Peru side.
While Eriksen will likely need to shoulder the bulk of the Danish attack, they are also quite solid in goal with Kasper Schmeichel between the posts, and the captain Simon Kjaer commanding the backline. That said, they’ll still be in quite tough in this group to advance because of their over-reliance on Eriksen.
That strategy likely won’t be conducive to success in this group, but given their recent run of form before the tournament – the Danes might just surprise here.
One of the reasons why I’m not overly high on the Danes entering Russia 2018, is the form and talent of Peru. I think they’re clearly the second best side in this group, and this is a team that has clearly united the country. Approximately 32 million Peruvians are poised to see their country break their World Cup drought, as it will be their first trip since 1982. And you better believe they aren’t just content to be at Russia 2018. This is a side that has not been defeated since 2016, and enter the tournament in great form and riding a wave of confidence. Team captain and prolific goal-scorer Paolo Guerrero has cleared his name from a doping controversy and will be ready to go for his nation.
Peru is immensely compact and they’re a very proud, team-first squad. Manager Ricardo Gareca has built a solid defense that does not concede much. Players to look out for include Jefferson Farfan and Christina Cueva. That duo will anchor what should be a solid ball-winning and surprisingly creative midfield. It will be a strength for them and it could be what passes them beyond the Danes at this tournament.
Look for the Peruvians to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation that can press hard and force the issue against weaker teams like Denmark and Australia, but that can also be molded to sit back and defend when facing France. They have the ability to score, but also have the spirit to defend and will adhere to that mentality when facing some of the game’s top teams.
Their clash against Denmark will be one of the most intriguing of the entire tournament, and it should decide who advances and who goes home early.
The Australians are likely just happy to be here, and really do sit a distant fourth place in this otherwise difficult group. Their manager is new after Bert van Marwijk just left Saudi Arabia – he jumped ship to the Aussies and likely hasn’t had much time to instill his systems and tactics. They have had some poor results in pre-tournament friendlies, and being drawn into this group does not instill much confidence and hope for the Socceroos.
In fact, out of all of the 32 teams at the World Cup, the Aussies likely had the least impressive qualifying run. They were beat out by lowly Saudi Arabia and then needed extra time to beat Syria. Their defensive game is woeful, and they’re a definite candidate to concede the most goals out of all teams in the group stage. And their offense likely won’t produce all that much against Denmark, France, and Peru.
Bert van Marwijk is a great coach, and is familiar with Australia from his time spent on the Saudi Arabian touchline during qualifying – but I can’t see the Socceroos getting much from this group. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them leave Russia with a grand total of zero points gained and the fact that their best player and scoring threat is 38-year old Tim Cahill says all you need to know about them. This won’t be a tournament to remember for Australia.