France is the absolute favourite to top Group C, while there could be a strong fight between Peru, Denmark and Australia for the second spot. The Australians are experienced customers and are making their fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup. Peru, meanwhile, will be hungry for success as it returns to the tournament after a long gap of 36 years. The dark horse of the group might well be Denmark. A dogfight for the second spot will be fascinating to watch.
Les Bleus, studded with some of the biggest names in world football, are undoubtedly one of the most exciting and promising teams to watch out for. France, managed by Didier Deschamps, the man who famously marshalled France to World Cup Glory in 1998, heads to Russia as one of the prime favourites to clinch the title.
The side suffered successive heartbreak first when it was ousted from the 2014 World Cup in the quarters by Germany and then when it lost to Portugal in the 2016 EURO final. Both losses were its first and only loss in the tournaments. This time, with an explosive front-line that includes Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele, the defence anchored by Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, and Hugo Lloris manning the posts, France will certainly be looking to make amends.
The world’s second most expensive player and the youngest member of the France team, this will be Mbappe’s chance to shine in national colours. The 19-year-old is one of the most promising young talents and has even been compared to France legend Thierry Henry. This World Cup provides him an opportunity to excel at the biggest stage there is and guide his nation to the title.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Alphonse Areola.
Defenders: Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Pavard, Adil Rami, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, Lucas Hernandez.
Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Corentin Tolisso, N’Golo Kante, Steven Nzonzi.
Forwards: Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Florian Thauvin, Thomas Lemar, Nabil Fekir.
World Cup record
Champion in 1998
One of the most consistent teams in the competition, the Socceroos will be making their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance. The Australians come to Russia on the back of one of their most challenging qualification campaigns.
After missing out on a chance to seal automatic qualification, Australia had to play 22 games over two-and-a-half years and travel close to 250,000km to seal a berth. While the campaign would have taken a toll on the players, it most certainly has made them battle-ready. The side boasts quite a few experienced players in Aaron Mooy, Matthew Ryan and Mile Jedinak, while 19-year-old mercurial midfielder Daniel Arzani will be eager to impress in his debut campaign.
The flag-bearer of the national team and Australia’s all-time leading goal-scorer will be featuring in his fourth World Cup. The 38-year-old was instrumental in his side’s road to Russia, hammering in an impressive 11 goals in the qualification stages. Cahill will be keen to add to his tally, in what is likely to be his last World Cup campaign.
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Brad Jones.
Defenders: Trent Sainsbury, Milos Degenek, Matt Jurman, Mark Milligan, Josh Risdon, Aziz Behich, James Meredith.
Midfielders: Mile Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Jackson Irvine, Tomi Rogic, Dimitri Petratos, Mathew Leckie, Daniel Arzani.
Forwards: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren, Robbie Kruse.
World Cup record
Round of 16 in 2006
Peru, ranked 11th in the world, is returning to the World Cup after 36 years. Its qualification campaign got off to a disastrous start, with four losses in its first six games. However, that seemed to only spur the players, as the Paolo Guerrero-led side then went on a 13-match unbeaten streak to defeat New Zealand in the intercontinental play-offs to win a ticket to Russia.
But La Blanquirroja had reason to worry as Guerrero, the nation’s top-scorer and the side’s most experienced player, was found guilty of doping and was initially banned for 14 months. Then, just a fortnight before the World Cup, Switzerland’s supreme court froze Guerrero’s ban, making him eligible to compete in Russia.
At 33, Farfan is one of his side’s most seasoned and influential players. The former Schalke 04 winger is seen as more of a playmaker than an outright striker and will form a crucial partnership with Guerrero and Carrillo up front. Farfan currently plays for Lokomotiv Moscow in the Russian Premier League, and could enjoy a ‘home’ advantage.
Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese, Carlos Caceda, Jose Carvallo.
Defenders: Aldo Corzo, Luis Advincula, Christian Ramos, Miguel Araujo, Alberto Rodriguez, Anderson Santamaria, Miguel Trauco, Nilson Loyola.
Midfielders: Renato Tapia, Pedro Aquino, Yoshimar Yotun, Paolo Hurtado, Christian Cueva, Edison Flores, Andy Polo, Wilder Cartagena.
Forwards: Andre Carrillo, Raul Ruidiaz, Jefferson Farfan, Paolo Guerrero.
World Cup record
Round of 16 in 2006
Think of Denmark and the first name that pops into your head is Christian Eriksen, and for good reason, too. Eriksen, who excels in the role of a playmaker at Tottenham Hotspur, is a prolific scorer for the national team, finding the back of the net eight times in 10 matches to guide Denmark to its fifth appearance in the World Cup. While Eriksen will handle attacking duties, Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen will spearhead the defence. However, the Danes will be deprived of the services of Nicklas Bendtner, who was ruled out of the competition owing to a groin injury.
The 23-year-old winger is one of the brightest young talents in the Danish squad and will inject some much-needed pace up ahead. Sisto scored five goals and crafted 10 assists for Celta Vigo across all competitions this season and will look to carry the momentum into the national side.
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Frederik Ronnow, Jonas Lossl.
Defenders: Simon Kjaer, Mathias Jorgensen, Andreas Christensen, Henrik Dalsgaard, Jannik Vestergaard, Jens Stryger Larsen, Jonas Knudsen.
Midfielders: Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone, Michael Krohn-Dehli, Thomas Delaney, William Kvist, Lukas Lerager.
Forwards: Andreas Cornelius, Kasper Dolberg, Martin Braithwaite, Nicolai Jorgensen, Pione Sisto, Viktor Fischer, Yussuf Poulsen.
World Cup record
Quarterfinals in 1998
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