World Cup Preview: Group C

June 11, 2018

- Grant Whittington

The 2018 World Cup promises to be one of the most unique and thrilling iterations of modern times, not least because Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of land mass.

This will require some teams to travel considerable distances between their training camps and group game locations, which may increase the likelihood of shocks and upsets as the tournament progresses.

In this post, we’ll continue our preview of the tournaments opening phase by analysing Group C.

We start with France, who are among the favourites to lift the 2018 World Cup and are priced at 13/2 to achieve this objective.

Didier Deschamps’ men qualified for their 15th World Cup finals in impressive fashion, topping their group with seven wins from 10 games and finishing four points clear of second place Sweden. They’ll also be looking to continue their recent good form in the tournament, having won as the host nation in 1998 and earning the runners-up spot in the infamous final of 2006.

France also finished as runners-up while hosting Euro 2016, although many fans feel as though that Deschamps has built a better and more talented squad this time around.

The French will launch their campaign against Australia in the Kazan Arena on June 16th, before facing Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena on June 21st. Luzhniki Stadium will host France’s final game against European neighbours Denmark on June 26th, as they look to reach the knockout stages for the fourth time in six tournaments.

Pace is central to France’s attacking threat, with youngsters KylianMbappé   and Ousmane Dembélé providing incredible speed and fleet-of-foot in the final third. With the powerful Paul Pogba also offering thrust and guile from midfield, the French will land in Russia with arguably the best grouping of attacking players in the world.

Remember, both Anthony Martial and Dimitri Payet have missed out on the squad (the latter through injury), and despite this France’s squad depth and range of attacking options have scarcely been affected.

Our Verdict: The French are 11/1 not to qualify for the knockout stages, and this reflects the competitive advantage that the side has in Group A. Given their firepower, pedigree and depth of quality, a more pressing question is whether France can go all the way and win their second World Cup?

While football may not be the preferred sport in Australia, their national side has enjoyed a consistent run of relative success in the World Cup. More specifically, this tournament will represent their fifth participation in the finals, and their fourth consecutive appearance dating back to 2006.

Despite this, the Aussies only narrowly qualified for the 2018 World Cup, having finished third in their initial AFC group and edged out Syria in a two-leg play-off thanks to Tim Cahill’s extra-time strike.

They then defeated Honduras 3-1 in a final, two-legged play-off, with Aston Villa’s Mile Jedinak’s hat-trick delivering the final denouement.

The Socceroos also struggled during the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, having endured three defeats against Holland, Chile and Spain. However, the evergreen Cahill also struck one of the most spectacular goals of the tournament four years ago, firing home a ferocious volley during their match with the Netherlands.

Australia will be hoping for similar inspiration when they take on France on 16th before they do battle with Denmark at the Samara Arena on 21st June. They close their campaign against Peru on 26th June in Sochi and retain genuine confidence that they’ll reach the knockout stages for the first time since 2006.

Cahill will lead the Aussie charge in Russia, with the former Everton midfielder having scored 11 goals in qualifying. Premier League fans will also be familiar with the side’s chief playmaker Aaron Mooy, while Brighton stopper Matthew Ryan also represents Australia’s last line of defence.

Our Verdict: The Aussies are 7/2 to qualify from the group, and marginal favourites ahead of Denmark and the largely unheralded Peru. Given their experience and relative quality in relation to their rivals, we’d expect them to secure second place in Group C and a place in the second round.

Despite being a largely unknown and underrate entity, a recent study has suggested that Peru have a 5% chance of winning the World Cup. Much of this has to do with the draw, which could create a viable route to the semi-finals if Peru can edge out their rivals in Group C.

Peru, who reached Russia after edging out Chile in fifth place during the CONMEBOL qualifiers and defeating New Zealand in a two-legged play-off, are appearing in their fifth World Cup finals and first since 1982.

However, their qualification was mired in controversy, as Peru entered their final CONMEBOL game against Colombia knowing that a 1-1 draw would be enough for both sides to achieve their aims. Paolo Guerrero subsequently scored a late goal that secured Peru this result, condemning Alexis Sanchez to a summer on the sofa.

The Peruvians will start by taking on Denmark at the Mordovia Arena on June 16th, before they do battle against group favourites France. Then they’ll head to Sochi to face Australia on June 26th, in a match that some commentators believe could be decisive in determining which side finishes second.

Peru’s key player remains former Schalke and current Lokomotiv Moscow winger Jefferson Farfan, who remains as quick and as skilful as ever despite turning 33 recently. Watford’s on-loan forward Andre Carrillo is also a capable performer, while skipper Guerrero serves as a driving force who boasts a genuine goal threat and will be allowed to play in Russia after having a doping ban temporarily lifted.

Our Verdict: Peru are the dark horses in Group C, with their experience and pace in attack establishing them as difficult opponents. If they beat Denmark in their opener, they’ll have an excellent chance of edging out the Aussies in second place.

The Danes are something of an unknown quantity in Group C, as while they boast some excellent players they’ve struggled to impose themselves on the international stage recently.

This will be their fifth appearance at the World Cup finals and their first since 2010, when they were eliminated in the group stages by Cameroon. The 1992 European Champions also failed to qualify for Euro 2016 in France, so this will be their first participation in a major tournament since 2012.

Denmark ultimately qualified by thrashing the Republic of Ireland in a play-off, having finished second in Group E and a distant five points behind Poland.

Despite never progressing beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup, Åge Hareide’s men have a talented squad and will be confident that they can at least reach the knockout stages in Russia. Talisman Christian Eriksen will certainly be central to their chances, with the Spurs midfielder a true driving force who scored eight goals in 10 qualifying matches.

Leicester City stopper Kasper Schmeichel will also be important, as goal difference could well prove crucial in a group where there is little to separate three of the four sides.

Our Verdict: While Denmark are more than capable of qualifying, their recent tournament record makes for disappointing reading. There is also a lack of goals in their squad, while the side’s reliance on Eriksen may well be their downfall when the qualification places are decided.




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