World Cup Preview: Group C
Euro 2016’s runners up, France are the A listers in Group C for this year’s tournament in Russia. The French are not only favourites to win the group but also are tipped to go far in the competition. However, they will have three tough opponents to face before they are able to make it into the knockouts. ENRG Sport writer, David Ronney previews Group C.
France – Strength in depth
Didier Deschamps squad fell short in the recent Euros tournament as they finished runners up to winners Portugal in 2016. With the squad as strong as their Euro 2016 counterpart, the French will have a point to prove in this year’s tournament. There’s only five players in the 23-man squad over the age of 30 and eight who are 23 or younger.
Deschamps has almost perfected the balance of experienced internationals and talented youth in his squad and it would be hard not to argue that almost any player at his disposal has the ability to start.
The likes of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Nabil Fekir make for a threatening midfield that could help influence the play of Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé further up the field. The idea of these six players all playing alongside each other alone would be enough for most sides to rethink their tactics of breaking them down. While many have tipped the likes of Brazil and Germany to win this year’s World Cup, don’t write off this French side from reaching the final stages of the competition.
Australia – Cahill chases record
It’s understandable that leading into this tournament that most eyes are on Tim Cahill, it’s only his fourth World Cup after all. While it may be a lot to ask for the Aussie star to top last World Cup’s volley against the Dutch, he will be chasing the record of scoring in four consecutive World Cup tournaments. If he does, he’ll join elite company that includes Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler. However, the 38-year-old’s minutes this season have been limited to say the least. Cahill has played 157 minutes in 16 matches this season, 63 minutes in 10 since his January move to Millwall. This obviously doesn’t bode well leading up to the tournament in Russia and it’s realistic to say that we may not see much of the midfielder this year. But there’s always the chance the Socceroos star could write history in the group stage if he is to feature.
For the rest of the squad, despite never making it past the last 16 stage of the competition, the Aussies will be no pushovers in this group. Aston Villa’s Mile Jedinak will be leading his side in the tournament alongside the likes of Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy and Celtic’s Tom Rogic. The latter of which I have seen more of this season due to his appearances in the Scottish top flight and I feel he may prove the most important going forward. While I’ve been told that myself and Rogic have an uncanny resemblance, it’s his goalscoring ability for Celtic in recent years that has led me to believe that he will be a big player for Australia this year.
Peru – Guerrero goes!
The Peruvians have achieved something that one of their recent opponents (that being Scotland) haven’t been able to do in a long time. Reach a World Cup. This is Peru’s first appearance in the finals since 1982 after they beat New Zealand in the play-offs.
However, despite efforts to keep the focus on this remarkable achievement similar to the likes of Iceland reaching the tournament, instead the attention has steered away towards Peru captain, Paolo Guerrero. The reason being that the 34-year-old tested positive for cocaine in October of last year and has been serving a 14-month suspension since. However, this was as a result of Guerrero consuming tea contaminated with the drug.
There are other factors that go into this story but the simplified version is that after the captains of France, Australia and Denmark wrote to FIFA to lift the ban, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has temporarily lifted the strikers’ suspension, with Guerrero’s dream of playing in a World Cup now only days away.
Guerrero is also Peru’s all-time top goalscorer and the nation are undefeated since November 2016. The South American side may end up surprising a few in the coming weeks.
Denmark – Danish delight
By now those reading will have heard the upsetting news that former Arsenal striker, Nicklas Bendtner will not be featuring for Denmark this tournament after he sustained a groin injury at club level with Rosenborg. Shame.
Nevertheless, the reigns will be passed over to the likes of Christian Eriksen who scored that emphatic hattrick against Ireland in the play-offs to ensure qualification for the tournament. The Tottenham midfielder was involved in 27 goals last season (14 goals, 13 assists) and will likely be the main star for Denmark in the World Cup.
But that’s not to say there’s a lack of talent elsewhere. Chelsea defender, Andreas Christensen and Leicester City goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel are just two other high-profile players that feature in this national side. Both of which have had good seasons for their respected sides and will hopefully carry their form into this tournament.
While Denmark haven’t made it past the group stage of the World Cup since 2002, they’ll be sure to put up a fight this time round to make it into the knockouts.
1st – France 7pt
2nd – Denmark 4pt
3rd – Australia 3pt
4th – Peru 2pt