World in Sport continues its coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as we preview group C.
France opens group play as strong favorites to advance to the knockout round, listed at -333 to win group C. Who joins France in advancing? Let’s take a look.
Let’s reveal the four teams that will be competing in group C, as well as the schedule.
**All times listed in local Russia time, with the UTC and Eastern Time Zones included**
Group C (Top 2 Teams Advance to the Knockout Round)
France – Australia – Peru – Denmark
Odds to Win Group C (Bwin.com):
Match-by-match schedule for group C:
16 June 2018 (Match 1)
13:00 MSK (UTC+3) 6 A.M ET
France Vs Australia @ Kazan Arena, Kazan
16 June 2018 (Match 2)
19:00 MSK (UTC+3) 12 P.M ET
Peru Vs Denmark @ Mordovia Arena, Saransk
21 June 2018 (Match 3)
16:00 SAMT (UTC+4) 8 A>M ET
Denmark Vs Australia @ Cosmos Arena, Samara
21 June 2018 (Match 4)
20:00 YEKT (UTC+5) 11 A.M ET
France Vs Peru @ Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
26 June 2018 (Match 5)
17:00 MSK (UTC+3) 10 A.M ET
Denmark Vs France @ Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
26 June 2018 (Match 6)
17:00 MSK (UTC+3) 10 A.M ET
Australia Vs Peru @ Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Quick notes about the history of each team at the FIFA World Cup.
France is making their sixth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 2018, and 15th overall.
There has been quite a reaction to the 23-man roster that manager Didier Deschamps has chosen.
Karim Benzema and Alexander Lacazette have not been asked to join the squad in Russia, and the French fans have certainly not taken it lightly.
Denmark is listed as the secondary favorites in the group, hopeful that they can join France in the knockout round. The Danish Dynamite are making their fifth appearance at the World Cup over the last nine events. Their best result came in the 1998 edition hosted by France, when they reached the quarterfinals.
Peru had to endure an extra qualification round to ensure their path to the World Cup group stage. Having to endure an extra playoff qualifying round against New Zealand, Peru became the fifth team awarded entry by CONMEBOL. (OFC v CONMEBOL playoff). After a scoreless first leg in New Zealand, Peru took a 2 – 0 victory at home to secure their path to the World Cup in 2018.
Australia, similarly to Peru, had to also play an extra playoff round of qualification to arrive in Russia. Australia and Honduras clashed for the lone qualifying spot that comes from the CONCACAF–AFC two-legged playoff round. After a scoreless first leg in Honduras, Australia returned home and took a 3 – 1 result to advance to the World Cup.
France Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the France team page.
When you look over the French roster, there are names that you are just used to seeing. I mentioned Benzema and Lacazette not being brought to Russia, but add in midfielders Moussa Sissoko and Adrien Rabiot, to name a few. There is an article out there that is dedicated to the France Snubbed XI for this year’s World Cup. I won’t link to it, but it’s over at Soccerladuma and it’s a good read.
I am into knowing everything about the hows and whys managers choose to leave certain players home. Some call it sports politics, some blame the system, and others just want to have something to bitch about.
Let’s be honest here, since no one else in the French Football Federation seems to have a clue.
As decent as France is as a soccer nation, they are a complete mess internally. Even the fans are begging for everyone to just get along, so they can put the best team they have on the pitch especially on a stage like this where the world is watching, and everything gets scrutinized to death.
The last thing you want to be remembered for is putting a product on the field that didn’t have the best chance of success.
Don’t be too mislead thinking that France doesn’t have a team that compete at the 2018 World Cup.
The roster that French manager Didier Deschamps has is not terrible, it’s just not as strong as it could be.
Up front, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud are certainly formidable, and can each present issues for opposing defenders. If you caught any of Atletico Madrid’s run to the Europa League title, then you know how dangerous Griezmann can be. Not that we didn’t know that already.
Paul Pogba is still only 25 years old, and his presence as an attacking midfielder will be vital.
Team Captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was thought to be facing a challenge to keep his spot on the pitch as well. Many expected to see Bordeaux goalkeeper Benoit Costil make the squad and possibly see time on the field, but he too was left home.
Lloris has 96 caps to his credit, however, and obviously coach Deschamps wanted some experience there. That also could be because France has an extremely young and inexperience defense, so some stability has got to be found somewhere.
Denmark and France meet on the final day of group C play, and it’s time to have some fun.
Denmark and France have some results against each other dating back to the 1908 Olympic Games. That posted link takes you to the Wikipedia 1908 Olympic Soccer results just so you can see what Denmark did to France with your own eyes. Yes, that says Denmark 17 – 1 France in the semifinals. This meeting between them at this year’s World Cup is not likely to reflect any score line like that. Don’t leave out that Sophus Nielsen scored 10 of those goals for Denmark that afternoon, but that’s practically ancient history.
Other than that, this group doesn’t have a lot of experience playing each other, even under Friendly status. So let’s glance over to Denmark, and see if they are the second favorite in this group for a reason, or not?
Denmark Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Denmark team page.
Denmark finished in second place during the UEFA World Cup qualifying group stage behind Poland. UEFA’s qualification process is much different from the other Federations, because of the amount of teams involved.
There are nine groups of six teams that take part in the UEFA World Cup qualification process. All nine first-place finishers in group play gain direct entry to the World Cup. The top eight second-place finishers from group play earn their way to the second and final round of UEFA qualifying. Another draw is held and the teams remaining are re-seeded by their FIFA Ranking. Pot 1 held the top four seeds, and Pot 2 held the bottom four seeds, and balls were drawn to determine who faced who.
Denmark landed a two-legged affair with The Republic of Ireland, and proceeded to dismantle the Irish 5 – 1 on aggregate to advance to the World Cup. Those two will meet again at the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League in October, placed in League B – Group 4 together with Wales.
Through the 12 matches played in UEFA W.C qualifying, Denmark were +16 outscoring their opponents 25 – 9. When you think of Denmark, one usually doesn’t think of prolific goal scoring lifting them to the next level.
Denmark got off to a rough start in their group A UEFA qualifying battle, facing a 1 – 2 record from their opening three fixtures. All they did was not lose another match the entire rest of the way, with a beat down of Poland 4 – 0 on Sept 1, in front of their own fans to boot. Finishing out with 6 wins and 3 draws from their last 9 contests, surely will build momentum towards the event.
Christian Eriksen, the 26-year-old midfielder, who was born on Valentine’s Day, has been shooting opponents in the heart the whole way through qualifying. Cupid need not apply, because the man has been an assassin for the Danish Dynamite.
Circle the #10 on your betting form, because Eriksen is likely to score in this tournament. You would think that everyone would be aware to not let one guy hurt you, but he single-handedly earned the team 7 points from 3 matches alone. He scored the only goal in their 1 – 0 win to open group play against Armenia. He scored the only goal in a 1 – 0 win over Montenegro before the final match of group play, where he scored the only goal in a 1 – 1 draw with Romania.
He has been a constant double-digit scorer over the last five years with Tottenham as well.
Eriksen tallied eight goals through qualifying overall, and midfielder Thomas Delaney tacked on four of his own. Delaney notched a hat-trick against Armenia, and scored the first goal in the mentioned big 4 – 0 win over Poland.
Although it is great that the two have combined to score 12 goals in qualifying, they are both midfielders. More will be hopeful from the nine players that manager Åge Hareide has brought with him at the forward position to the World Cup.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel will be relied on for his experience and composure between the frames.
Schmeichel has 263 appearances with Leicester City of the English Premier League and, just two campaigns ago, led them to an unprecedented league title. He will be making his 32nd cap with Denmark when they open group play against Peru on June 16.
Nicklas Bendtner leads the forwards in experience, having earned 81 caps with the team, while netting 30 goals along the way. The 30-year-old Rosenborg striker has certainly battled injuries in his career, and his attitude has also been questioned by the team and the media alike.
While they hope to be one of the two teams moving on, we have two other teams fighting for the same spots.
Peru Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Peru team page.
Peru played in the first World Cup in 1930, and remained absent from the event until 1970. After appearing in three out of four tournaments from 1970 – 1982, La Blanquirroja are back after another long drought.
Alberto Rodríguez will be wearing the Captain’s armband for Peru this time around. That is, unfortunately, the result of a positive cocaine drug test for former captain Paolo Guerrero. Guerrero’s dismissal from the team has made international news, with cries for anti-doping reform at the forefront.
He is their leading scorer, by the way, so it will have an impact both off and on the pitch. His original suspension back in December of 2017, was set for six months, which would have let him participate with the team at the World Cup. The Court of Arbitration for Sport decided to increase the ban to 14 months, so that is also a big news maker in the ordeal.
Despite that, the games will be played, and the attention has to be geared towards Russia. Concerns about how Peru got here or what hand they have been dealt will have no impact on the other three squads in this group.
Guerrero and Edison Flores each scored five goals in South American W.C qualifying. Flores wears #10 for his club, Aalborg in the Danish Superliga, and teammate Christian Cueva wears #10 for his club, São Paulo. Cueva added four goals in CONMEBOL W.C qualifying for Peru, giving their midfielders a boat-load of points overall. Cueva is up to 41 caps with the team, alongside Flores’ 26 appearances for the squad.
Building on some recent success at the last two Copa America tournaments in South America should help matters. Even though Chile went on to win both events in 2015 and 2016, Peru showed up big-time in the 2015 version of the dance. A solid third-place finish, getting inched out by Chile in the semifinals on Chilean soil, was certainly a confidence builder.
Although the 2016 turnout wasn’t as successful, there were still plenty of positives to take out of it.
Although this is a young squad for the most part, they are starting to build time together in big tournaments.
Also hoping to surprise this group as well as the line setters and pundits is Australia.
Australia Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Aussie team page.
Listed at +1400 to come out of group C, Australia knows that they have nothing to lose in Russia.
In fact, when you are listed to finish dead-last in your group, you can either bow your heads or go out and do something about it.
Manager Bert van Marwijk has spent 49 of his 66 years as a professional player or manager in football. Oddly, his successor has already been announced, and Graham Arnold will be taking over after their World Cup run.
The smartest thing Australia has ever done was to get themselves out of the Oceania Federation. It is almost impossible to claim a bid to the World Cup out of that Federation. Even when you win everything you have to, the last standing Oceanic team still only receives what is called a half-bid. That means they will still have to go through a two-legged affair with a team from CONMEBOL or Asia. It was Peru who was involved with New Zealand in that exact scenario this year.
Now that Australia comes out of the Asian Federation, the path to get to the World Cup is at least achievable now. When they were invited to start play within the Asian Federation in 2006, the impact was immediate. This year’s World Cup marks the fourth straight appearance for Australia, dating back to, you guessed it, 2006.
Before then, Australia had one appearance at the World Cup to their credit, coming at the 1974 event in Germany. Let’s not bring that 1974 stuff up, because Australia didn’t score a goal at the Championships, and were back home in no time. How about facing both East Germany and West Germany in your first World Cup in team history? Featured in group A, when the host country is Germany?! Well, how else would you expect that to go?
Australia has already played 22 matches in qualifying to arrive in Russia. It is hard not to notice that lovely goal differential, having scored 51 goals, and only allowing 18.
Tim Cahill has been a part of all three of the Australian World Cup squads since 2006. Cahill is almost certainly playing his last matches in an Aussie uniform, although you never know.
Regardless, Cahill tallied 11 goals in AFC W.C qualifying, and he seems in fine shape to lead the team again. Remember, he did score the first-ever goal for Australia at the 2006 World Cup. He was just as important in getting them back to both the 2010 and 2014 editions of the Cup, as he was this time around.
Team Captain Mile Jedinak added 10 goals of his own through the qualifying process, and Tomi Juric was a beast in the third round of AFC qualifying. Juric’s five tallies all seemed to come at times when the team needed a spark, and he provided it on cue.
FIFA World Cup Group B Predictions:
We can give France the nod to advance to the knockout round, but obviously there is no value in a line such as -333 from the odds makers.
This group is actually going to offer some fun viewing, because this battle for second place will be fierce.
Peru and Denmark are ranked 11th and 12th respectively by FIFA, and you can see the rankings HERE.
These two will meet right out of the gate, and we see Denmark listed as slight favorites for that contest on June 16 @ Mordovia Arena.
As you might expect, Australia is listed as underdogs in all three fixtures of group C play.
Look for some totals to come in towards the Over throughout this group, because these matchups could provide some fireworks. When you have one clear-cut favorite to win a four-man race, the other three competitors have to take drastic measures to overcome low expectations. That should provide some goal scoring, but there may not be a major surprise coming out of group C.
Australia will battle Denmark for that second slot, and their day 2 meeting on June 21, could be high-scoring, and what determines which of the two advances to the knockout round. Denmark should be able to do enough to advance, even if it takes all the way to the sixth tie-breaking scenario. Honestly, don’t be shocked if it comes down to something so marginal that it will hurt even more.