Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Although top spot in Group C at this summer’s World Cup looks almost certain to be filled by Les Bleus, the rest of the section looks a little more open. Denmark, Peru and even Australia will all fancy their chances of forcing their way into second spot behind Dider Deschamps men and that should ensure that the fixtures between those three have a razor sharp competitive edge.
Denmark are the bookies’ favourites to grab the second spot from Group C, though Åge Hareide’s were worryingly inconsistent in their UEFA qualification section. Peru and Australia are considered outsiders, though both are capable of providing an upset against the odds.
Group C kicks off this Saturday at 13:00 UK time, when France take on Australia in Kazan. The French will be expected to start their World Cup campaign in emphatic fashion, though the Group’s second fixture later that day between Peru and Denmark looks far more pivotal in the Group’s overall outlook.
Let’s take a closer look at the teams involved.
FIFA Ranking: 7th
Best Finish: Winners (1998)
Ranked as the 4th favourite with bookmakers to win the World Cup, France are listed in 7th spot in FIFA’s often controversial official rankings. And while those rankings are open to ridicule, they do on this occasion at least, help to solidify France’s reputation as a sometimes-recondite football team.
In terms of the talent available to them, France have few that can match their numerous options, though getting the best out of that talent has proven a difficult task at times for the only marginally popular Didier Deschamps.
France sailed through qualification relatively easily, finishing ahead of Sweden in 2nd while simultaneously seeing off the challenge of a weak Netherlands side. They don’t score a tonne of goals, which is puzzling in itself considering the depth of attacking quality in their ranks, though watching them, you always feel as though they are on the cusp of exploding into life.
Antoine Griezmann is the star attraction and he is likely to be flanked by young superstars Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembélé. Extracting consistency from Paul Pogba in midfield is as tough at international level for France as it is at club level for Manchester United, but the former Juventus midfielder can still swing games on his own.
Read More: Analysis of France’s 23-man World Cup squad
FIFA Ranking: 12th
Best Finish: Quarter-Finals (1998)
Denmark finished 2nd in their UEFA Qualification Group behind Poland, winning just 60% of their 10 matches en-route to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Tottenham Hotspur’s chief creator Christian Eriksen is the conduit through which all good things flow for Denmark, though their over reliance on the former Ajax man could be their undoing.
Eriksen scored 11 times for Denmark during their qualification campaign, which included a sensational hattrick against a poor Republic of Ireland side in the second leg of their play-off in the Aviva Stadium.
Having been the youngest player at the World Cup in 2010, Eriksen arrives in Russia as one of the best players at the tournament. However, an injury to the midfielder, or even a poor performance or two from Eriksen, could see Denmark’s chances of progression unravelling completely.
FIFA Ranking: 10th
Best Finish: Quarter Finals (1970)
Having qualified for the World Cup three times between 1970 and 1982, Peru are back at the Finals for the first time for 36 long years. Unsurprisingly, none of the Peruvian players were alive the last time the country competed at this stage.
Peru finished 5th in their CONMBEOL qualification section, nipping in ahead of Chile on a day of high drama in the last round of Group matches. Manager Ricardo Gareca will hope that his team’s defending has improved considerably ahead of the World Cup – Peru conceded 26 times on their way to winning just 7 of their 18 matches in South America.
Central striker and abhorrer of tea, Paolo Guerrero will lead the line for Peru after he was cleared to play by FIFA., while Renato Tapia is one to watch in midfield. Peru beat Uruguay, drew with Colombia and ended all square with Argentina twice in qualifying, showing that they have the requisite tools to be a nuisance.
Read More: Meet the Peru squad ending a 36 year wait
FIFA Ranking: 36th
Best Finish: Round of 16 (2006)
As one of the lowest ranked teams competing at the 2018 World Cup, little is expected of this Australia team in Russia. While some of their squads in the past were dotted with players of genuine quality, the Socceroos ranks look short of top level footballers this time around.
Australia finished 3rd in their AFC qualification section behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, further emphasising the dearth of talent available to Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk. Just 3 of Australia’s players currently play their football in one of Europe’s “big 5” leagues.
Adding to Australia’s already difficult task is the fact that Bert van Marwijk hasn’t had much time to work with his players. Van Marwijk has only been in the job since November, when he was appointed to replace outgoing manager Ange Postecoglou. Australia face what could be a confidence shattering opening fixture against Group C favourites France on Saturday – a heavy defeat in that contest would be hard to recover from.
Group C Fixtures
Saturday 16th June – France vs Australia, 1pm, Kazan (BBC One)
Saturday 16th June – Peru vs Denmark, 4pm, Saransk (BBC One)
Thursday 21st June – Denmark vs Australia, 4pm, Samara (ITV)
Thursday 21st June – France vs Peru, 8pm, Yekaterinburg (ITV)
Tuesday 26th June – Denmark vs France, 5pm, Moscow (ITV)
Tuesday 26th June – Australia vs Peru, 5pm, Sochi (ITV4)
Who is Travelling the Furthest in Group C?
Australia’s slim chances of battling their way to the top two places in Group C could be enhanced by their travel itinerary. With 3,004 miles to navigate, the Socceroos have to cover the least distance of the teams in Group C.
Similarly, France will be buoyed be their own mileage total. The Group favourites will have to fly from their base in Moscow to Kazan initially, followed by a hop to Yekaterinburg and then back to Moscow again for their final game. In total, they will have to traverse approximately 3,219 miles attending their three matches.
Peru are also based in Moscow, but the South Americans will have to rack up 5,020 miles on their way to games in Saransk, Yekaterinburg, Sochi. Denmark will have completed a huge 5,794 miles of travel by the time they are finished their 3rd qualification match against France in Moscow. That daunting schedule could have a negative impact on the energy levels in their squad.
Who is Going to Qualify From Group C?
It would be a major surprise if France didn’t top Group C. Everything seems to have fallen into place for Les Bleus, who have the upper hand in terms of ability alongside a much easier travel itinerary than their biggest obstacle for a top spot finish, Denmark. Additionally, an opening fixture against an anaemic looking Australia team should hand the French the opportunity to build some early momentum.
By the time their final qualification match against Denmark comes around on June 26th, France should already have 6 points and a place in the last 16 secured. It could be a case that second spot is claimed by the team that scores the most times in their respective fixture against Australia, though Denmark’s meeting with Peru is likely to be the most important game in determining who finishes as runners-up.
With Eriksen central to their plans, Denmark look a couple of notches above Peru in terms of quality and they should be able to clinch a spot in the World Cup knockout rounds ahead of the South Americans.
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