Impact 2018 World Cup preview: France favorites in Group C

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Impact Sports’ preview of the 2018 World Cup continues with a look at Group C, made up of Australia, Denmark, France and Peru. Yesterday’s look at Group B can be found here.

At first glance, Group C appears to have been won without having to play any games; France have been heralded as one of the top contenders to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament and Denmark appear to have enough quality to easily take the second spot out of the group. A closer look at Australia and Peru, however, could make this group the one that turns this summer’s World Cup upside down.

Australia (FIFA ranking: 36)

Overview: Following their disappointing appearance in the 2014 World Cup, Australia is back for the fifth time and are looking to advance past the group stage for the first time since 2006. With a good number of players in the Australian squad playing for some notable European club teams, the Socceroos could be a surprise team to watch this year.

Star player: Forward Tim Cahill, Free Agent

This World Cup will likely be the last for the 38-year-old former Everton man, whose club career is also up-in-the-air following his release from English club Millwall at the end of this season. Not only is Cahill the most-capped Aussie in the squad with 105 appearances (the Australian record is 109, which Cahill can break if they advance out of the group stage), he is also the most prolific goal-scorer in Socceroos history with 50 goals; to put his goal numbers into perspective, the rest of the 23-man Australian squad for the World Cup has 70 total goals. With time running out on both his international and club careers, Russia seems like the perfect stage for Cahill to play like he has nothing to lose.

Biggest question: How will Australia fare under brand-new manager Bert van Marwijk?

Just two weeks after qualifying for the World Cup, veteran manager Ange Postecoglou resigned and became the manager of Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos. Though just recently appointed, van Marwijk will only coach the Socceroos for the World Cup and will be replaced by Graham Arnold following the tournament. The absence of a consistent, present managerial figure can have varying effects depending on the team itself, but for this Australia team to be placed under the command of a manager who everyone knows is out the door could be detrimental to this team.

Best-case scenario: Goalkeeper Mathew Ryan becomes the surprise player of the World Cup and puts on a stalwart performance in goal, leading the Socceroos out of the group stage.

Denmark (FIFA ranking: 12)

Overview: After failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Denmark is back to prove they are among the world’s best. With their current squad, they have the tools to not only make a name for themselves, but make a far run in the tournament.

Star player: Midfielder Christian Eriksen, Tottenham (England)

Eriksen is a household name to fans of the sport nowadays with his clinical passing and playmaking abilities as key parts to Tottenham’s success in recent years. The 26-year-old was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup and since then has grown into one of the most talented attacking midfielders in the sport today. High-caliber play from Eriksen is not only expected, but necessary if the Danes want to make it out of the group.

Biggest question: Can Kasper Schmeichel handle the importance and magnitude of the World Cup?

Kasper Schmeichel was an instrumental part of Leicester City’s unforgettable Premier League championship in 2016, anchoring the defense from goal and emerging as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Since then, Schmeichel has seen his level of place diminish slightly and questions surrounding his ability to compete at a high level at age 31 have come with it. If Schmeichel wants to prove the critics wrong and finally break free from the shadow of his father, Manchester United and Danish legend Peter Schmeichel, he needs to be on top of his game in Russia.

Best-case scenario: Denmark win all three games in the group and make a (slightly) surprising run to the semi-finals.

France (FIFA ranking: 7)

Overview: On the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 finals, France finds themself seeking vengeance with their sights set on winning the World Cup. Not only is France highly motivated, they could very well be considered the most talented team in this summer’s tournament with an array of impressive players at all positions on the field. Anything but winning in Russia might seem disappointing to Les Bleus this summer.

Star player: Midfielder Paul Pogba, Manchester United (England)

Pogba has had a couple of roller-coaster seasons at the club level but his performances in midfield will push France forward.

Biggest question: Can France finally win when it matters most?

Ever since the seemingly invincible France teams that won the 1998 World Cup, 2000 Euros and 2001 and 2003 Confederations Cups, France has not won a major international trophy, but has two runners-up medals (2006 World Cup and 2016 Euros) to show for it. Though 12 years removed from it, the thought of France in the World Cup stills brings up the notorious Zinedine Zidane headbutt incident that led to Zidane getting a red card and, eventually, Italy defeating France to win the 2006 World Cup. France is certainly not short on fuel to add to their fire, but they need to make sure their fire does not burn them either.

Best-case scenario: The talent levels of France finally click together and overwhelm the rest of the competition, ending with them hoisting the World Cup trophy at the end of the tournament.

Peru (FIFA ranking: 11)

Overview: Peru’s qualification for the World Cup came with a bit of controversy as their 1-1 draw with Colombia during qualifications sent them to the playoff and knocked Chile out of contention. Since they are depriving the world from watching a truly exciting Chilean team compete in the sport’s most important tournament, the South American surprise qualifiers will hopefully be the new fun CONMEBOL team to watch.

Star player: Striker Paolo Guerrero, Flamengo (Brazil)

A team like Peru, who qualified for their first World Cup since 1982, needs strong leadership if they want to see success on the field. Who better to lead them to potential victory than their striker and captain Guerrero, who is Peru’s all-time leader in goals. After having a doping ban overturned ahead of the tournament, this could very well be Guerrero’s first and only chance to lead his country to success.

Biggest question: Is the World Cup stage too big for Peru?

Despite a few players playing for decent teams and Europe and the Americas, a majority of Peru’s squad play for less-than-impressive teams. While they may not lack experience on the field or playing as a team, they could just be overwhelmed by the superior talent and ability of the others teams in the group, let alone the World Cup as a whole.

Best-case scenario: Peru are able to edge out a win against Australia and a draw against either France or Denmark, which could be enough to earn them the second spot out of the group stage.

Prediction

  1. France 7 pts
  2. Denmark 5 pts
  3. Australia 4 pts
  4. Peru 0 pts

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