Group C preview
Australians will get three looks at the Socceroos during the group stages of the FIFA World Cup and if the side is good enough, then maybe a further appearance or two could be on the cards.
The Socceroos are drawn alongside France, Denmark and Peru with those three sides ranked inside the world’s top 20.
Here, we take a look at each opponent and dissect their strengths and key players to look for in the coming weeks.
The French are ranked seventh in the world and are loaded with talent.
Players such as Paul Pogba, Antoine Greizmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Debele, Thomas Lemar, Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud headline an all-star cast at manager Didier Deschamps’ disposal.
Each of those players competes at the highest levels across Europe in leagues such as the EPL and La Liga.
They are a classy outfit that likes to dominate possession, press high and control from the midfield. Deschamps and his men will be keen to go one better than they did in Euro 2016 where they fell at the final hurdle to Portugal.
In qualifying, France dropped just the one match and probably made progressing to the World Cup a little harder than it should have been. They topped the group and were four points clear of Sweden but in their 10 matches only scored 18 goals. Ultimately what got them through was their defence which conceded six throughout qualifying.
With such a star-studded team you would have expected a few more balls in the back of the net but they have rumbled into the main stage and must be considered hot favourites to top Group C.
The one question mark on France is their relative young squad but if they can put that aside and play like a team then they are going to cause some serious damage.
FRANCE – PLAYER YOU KNOW
Antoine Greizmann racked up 30 goals across all competitions for Atletico Madrid in 2017/18.
A member of the successful side that won the UEFA Europa League this season, Greizmann has been one of the best finishers in the Spanish La Liga for a number of years and continues to trouble the best defences in the world whether it be for club or country.
The 27-year-old netted four times to Les Blues during qualifying.
FRANCE – PLAYER TO WATCH
Kylian Mbappe is already a big name in the football world and he is only 19 years old.
The PSG star has continued his brilliant form for the champions this season after joining them from Monaco where he bagged 16 goals in 41 appearances. This season his strike rate has gone up to 13 goals in 27 games.
The Socceroos midfield and defence is going to have a heck of a time trying to contain him and the rest of France’s all-star attacking line-up.
The Danes are ranked 12th in the world and are definitely one of the smokeys in the tournament.
Denmark have been a regular at World Cups in recent years but had to come through a playoff to reach this point. In the two-legged tie, they came up against Ireland where they drew 0-0 at home but blew the Irish off their own park in an ultra-impressive 5-1 thrashing to book their spot here.
While they finished five points behind Poland in Group E, Denmark were clearly the best defensive team in the group and conceded just eight goals in their 10 qualification matches.
They have a well-balanced side that possesses some big names like Christian Eriksen, Thomas Delaney, Nicolai Jorgensen and Pione Sisto just to name a few.
You will find that Denmark don’t really dominate possession in their matches and more often that not it’s their opponents that have had the majority of the ball, however, when they do get it they release the ball up field quickly, efficiently and ruthlessly.
DENMARK – PLAYER YOU KNOW
Christian Eriksen is one of the best players in the EPL and was one of the main reasons why Tottenham Hotspur finished third on the table.
Eriksen’s game has gone to another level this season with the attacking midfielder set to cause plenty of problems for the Australians and the rest of the sides in Group C. He not only sets up goals but can score them too, registering 22 in 78 appearances for the national team while he has 41 in 171 for Spurs.
Their side is blessed with talent and their players ply their trade in some serious leagues across Europe including the EPL, La Liga and Eredivisie.
DENMARK – PLAYER TO WATCH
Kasper Schmeichel has cemented the number one position between the posts for Denmark.
The son of champion goalkeeper Peter, Schmeichel was instrumental in helping Leicester deliver the unlikeliest of titles in the EPL a few seasons ago but more importantly, was huge in conceding just eight goals in World Cup qualifying.
Australia’s attackers in Tim Cahill, Daniel Arzani, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout will have a hard time getting past this bloke.
To the uninitiated, Peru may look like one of the easy beats of the tournament but that is definitely not the case.
They are ranked 11th in the world and have been one of the big improvers in CONMEBOL qualifying in recent years. Although they finished fifth, they went into a two-legged playoff against New Zealand to reach their first World Cup since 1982.
Their fifth place finish meant that Chile, ranked nine in the world at that time, missed out on the playoff on goal difference.
The Peruvians have been one of the form teams heading into Russia 2018 and completed their World Cup preparations with a 0-0 draw against Sweden, extending their unbeaten run of matches to 15.
PERU – PLAYER YOU KNOW
Jefferson Farfan is getting towards the latter stages of his career but can still cause opposition defences plenty of headaches.
A veteran now at 33 years of age, Farfan spent a good part of his career at PSV Eindhoven and Schalke and has gone around in some of the toughest club competitions in the world such as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.
He has 25 goals in 83 appearances for the national side and will be one of the players Australia’s defenders will need to keep an eye on if they hope to get a result against the Peruvians.
PERU – PLAYER TO WATCH
Paolo Guerrero is their main man.
His availability in Russia was up in the air due to a positive doping test, however, he has been cleared and will take his place in the team.
He is Peru’s all-time leading goalscorer and a Golden Boot winner in the Copa America twice. The 34-year-old may be getting on in years but anyone that has played for Bayern Munich, like he has, must be respected. Australia’s defenders give him space at their peril!
Key market: France is $1.28 to win Group C while Denmark are $5.50 second picks. Peru ($10) and Australia ($21) are considered the rank outsiders.