Group C throws up a very interesting prospect indeed as France, Denmark, Peru and Australia are set to battle it out for the two qualifying spots. It will be one of the toughest groups to call and could possibly produce the overall winners in a French team that look extremely exciting to watch. It is a group that has a great mix of styles and talent, involving four nations that were born for football, when this group is over I have no doubt we will have seen some thrilling games and excellent play from the four teams involved.
France qualified for the finals from a very tough group which included The Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus. On the road to Russia they only lost one game which was away against Sweden. The French won the group by four points and with the strength and quality of the other teams involved that has to go down as a good campaign. Their star men going into the tournament will be Grizeman and Pogba, two players with bundles of talent in their armoury. Pogba has not set the world alight this season with his performances for Manchester United but that seems to be down to,as widely reported a rift between himself and his club manager Jose Mourinho. It will be very interesting see how different he performs under French manager Didier Deschamps. The French have left out a few big stars from their squad including Martial, Lacazette and Benezma and if you can afford to leave a trio with such talent at home the rest of the squad must be talented indeed. The French will do well this summer and if they can produce a team spirit and unity that the 1998 squad showed they might just do it again. The only problem I see ahead for Deschamps men is the national history and the expectancy, let us not forget they lost the 2016 European Championship on home turf and that was down to outside pressure more than bad play.
Australia have qualified for their fifth finals and this will be their fourth in a row, this is an amazing statistic considering the Football Federation of Australia was only formed in 1963, nowadays it is called the Australian Football Federation. It has taken the men from down under 22 games to qualify for the finals because in that part of the world the qualifying is so complicated. They have had to go through two qualifying groups and only finished third in their second round of group games, a group which included Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand. Finishing third in the Asia group meant they had to play Syria in a play off which they won three two on aggregate over two legs. Their qualifying was not over yet and you would have to believe that the Australians have travelled the most miles to get to their final goal of reaching Russia. They had to face Honduras over two legs in the Concacaf / Asia play off and they came through that tie, three one overall. All the goals came in the second leg and it was Aston Villa,s Jedinak who was the hero with a hat trick. The Australian squad is spread across the world including countries such as England, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and The Netherlands, which in turn gives them a wide experience of styles and cultures. Their game against Denmark will give us some sort of idea of what they are made of and if they have the quality to get out of this group.
Peru have not qualified for the World Cup Finals since 1982 and that famous shirt with the red stripe has really been missed. When they qualified for Russia the government announced a national day off for celebration, that is what it meant to this proud nation. They came through the intercontinental play off by beating New Zealand two nil, with goals from Farfan and Ramos in the second leg. Coach Ricardo Gareca has been a huge success since arriving in 2015 and he has instilled an inner belief in the players to go out onto the pitch and do well. It is his first international job after club involvement in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. Two players to look out for during the tournament are Jefferson Farfan from Lokomotiv Moscow and Edison Flores who plays with Danish side Aaborg. It is very hard to make a case for Peru to do anything in these finals but for them just to be taking part after such a long absence will be success in their minds.
The fourth team in the group are delightful wonderful Denmark, a side who got through to Russia via the play offs by thrashing the Republic of Ireland five one in the second leg in Dublin. It was a night when star player Christian Erikksen showed how good he is on the international stage by scoring a hat trick. To get to the play offs the Danes had to negotiate a group that consisted of Poland, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. They finished five points behind group winners Poland and as I mentioned earlier they were amazing in that second leg in Dublin. Manager Hareide has built his side around Erikksen and if the player can shine the Danes could be in for some summer in Russia. It is a very risky policy putting so much faith in one player but it does also show how much faith the manager has in the player. Two other players to keep an eye out for going into the tournament are goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and the often ridiculed Nicklas Bendtner a player who always seems to self promote his class but in fairness nearly always falls short. The second spot in this group is up for grabs and the game that could decide if Denmark progress to the knockout stage is the one against Australia, a winner takes all game you might say.
France v Australia 16/6/2018
Peru v Denmark 16/6/2018
Denmark v Australia 21/6/2018
France v Peru 21/6/2018
Australia v Peru 26/6/2018
Denmark v France 26/6/2018
By David Meier