World Cup Preview - Group C
FIFA World Ranking: 7th
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 14 Best Place: Winners in 1998 (FRA)
Possible XI: (4-3-3) Lloris (GK), B.Mendy (LB), Varane (CB), Umtiti (CB), Sidibie (RB), Kante (CDM), Pogba (CM), Matuidi (CM), Dembele (LW), Griezmann (RW), Giroud (ST)
Didier Deschamps (FRA) Age 49
Captain of the World Cup winning French team of 1998 and the European Championships two years later Deschamp is much admired by the French public and will demand good performances from his very talented side in Russia. He led France to the Euro 2016 final but was unable to claim victory as host nation as they went down 1-0 to Portugal in the final. You could argue that the squad he has assembled now is better than that side 2 years ago as he has introduced young players of exceptional talent, should they show this on the world stage, France have a good opportunity of getting far in the tournament. Deschamps has also been commended for keeping what is, historically a hostile dressing room, happy and focused. He is a good man manager and tactically astute.
Antoine Griezmann (51 caps / 19 goals)
I had the opportunity of watching Griezmann while at the U20 World Cup in Colombia and back then he was a skinny teenage left winger with huge potential who had just broken into the Espanyol team. Now he is one of the most potent strikers in football playing his trade at Atletico Madrid and coming off the back of a successful season personally having scored 19 goals in La Liga, and helping win the Europa League with some impressive performances contributing in the final with two goals against Marseille. Tactically his role in the national team is slightly different as he can be deployed in various positions, Deschamps uses him generally out wide but isn’t afraid to put him behind the striker. Fitting talents like Pogba and Griezmann in the starting XI can be problematic but a problem both player and manager will relish.
WATCH OUT FOR...
Kylian Mbappe (12 caps / 3 goals)
He became Monaco’s breakout star during their 2016/17 Champion League campaign and then signed for a fee of £166m as the 2nd most expensive player of all time. He has since gone on to win Ligue 1 and scored an impressive 21 goals and notched 16 assists in 46 games this season in all competitions. He adds to an already impressive squad, full of world class youth talent, energy, and hunger, which will make France one of the favourites for the tournament. Mbappe will operate on either flank cutting in from the left or tucking into more central positions if on the right. His pace is important too and will be invaluable when counter attacking. Nicknamed ‘Donatello’ by his club teammates, this is Mbappe’s first appearance at a World Cup but he has the hallmarks of being one of the starts of this tournament.
When Eder scored that goal in Euro 2016 which condemned France to defeat not only showed that 'Les Bleus' had a team the opposition should be afraid of again but that the crop of youngsters coming through will only get better and Russia 2018 is their first real test on the world stage. Players like Ousmane Dembele , Mbappe, Griezmann, Pogba have all made huge marks in football over the last 3 years and expectation is high that this team could be as special as the one in which Deschamps captained 20 or so years ago. They will be hugely disappointed if they do not reach the quarter-finals at least but I would not be surprised if they made it all the way to the final, and maybe even win it.
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris St-Germain).
Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris St-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich).
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
FIFA World Ranking: 11th FIFA World Cup Appearances: 4 Best Place: Qtr. Finals in Mexico 1970. Possible XI: (4-4-2) Gallese (GK), Trauco (LB), Ramos (CB), Rodriguez (CB), Carzo (RB), Tapia (LM), Yotun (CM), Carillo (RW), Cueva (CAM), Flores (LW), Guerrero (ST).
Ricardo Gareca (ARG) Age 60 As a player he won the Colombian league twice in 1985 and 1986 with America de Cali, he featured for Argentine clubs Boca Juniors, River Plate and Independiente where he won a league title in 1994. As a manager he has had successes at most notably Velez Sarsfield winning the Argentine Primera División; 2009 Clausura, 2011 Clausura, 2012 Inicial. Lead Peru to their first World Cup in 36 years. A defensibly minded coach, Gareca has set Peru up in a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 using Renato Tapia and Yoshimar Yotun in an anchor role in central midfield with Cristian Cuevas the creative force in a more centrally advanced role. Although he has played out wide on the left as often as in attacking midfield throughout his career, he will be vital in setting up quick counter attacks, using Paolo Guerrero and the wingers Jefferson Farfan and Andre Carrillo, using them as focal points.
Paolo Guerrero (86 caps / 32 goals)
With much of the talk in the run up to Russia 2018 for Peru was the ‘will-he-wont-he-play-at-the world-cup-drugs-scandal’ that hit the headlines once they had qualified. After drawing to Colombia in the final South American WC qualifying game, news broke that Guerrero tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine at a World Cup qualifier against Argentina in October 2017. The striker was suspended, and did not play in Peru's 2-0 two-legged play-off win over New Zealand as a result - a victory which saw the nation reach their first World Cup since 1982. The decision to suspend him was at first overturned in December 20th 2017 following the involvement of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The decision was then up held and was again not going to be involved in Russia until The world players' union FIFPro wrote to FIFA on May 20, requesting that Guerrero should be allowed to participate in the tournament. This was followed by an open letter two days later, signed by Hugo Lloris, Simon Kjaer, and Mile Jedinak - the captains of Peru's Group C opponents France, Australia and Denmark - which also called for his inclusion. So as the Peru captain and all-time record goal-scorer finally takes his seat to Russia, he will no doubt want to prove to the world how good a striker he is in his first ever World Cup appearance.
WATCH OUT FOR...
Cristian Cueva (43 caps / 7 goals)
He quick and skilful midfielder who can operate on the left wing as well as an attacking midfielder the diminutive Peruvian who plays with club side Sao Paulo will want to make a make this summer. Due to his versatility he will be important to the way Ricardo Gareca will want this team to attack the opposition, his skill, passing, vision and tenacity are invaluable to a side who finished 5th in south American qualifiers in which he was involved in all 16 games. A stocky and talented playmaker who only returned to the squad following 2 year hiatus once Gareca took over as manager. He could find his place in the starting XI under scrutiny if he doesn’t stick to defensive duties as Gareca may re-enforce the midfield line and sacrificingthe attack.
Peru will fancy their chances in this group especially when they come up against Australia and Denmark, but the key will be if they create enough for Guerrero to put away. Defensively they could be caught short and their record of conceding 26 goals in 18 matches doesn’t bode well, Gareca set up will be conscious of this and as mentioned before may stick to a defensive mind-set with the opportunity to change things up in an attacking sense with a couple of well thought out substitutions. The adaptability of the campaign’s break out star Edison Flores gives them that option to switch seamlessly between attack and defence. I think they will need to beat Denmark and gather at least a point from France or Australia to have any hope of progressing into the last 16.
Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), Carlos Caceda (Deportivo Municipal), Jose Carvallo (UTC).
Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Lobos Buap), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Alberto Rodriguez (Atletico Junior), Anderson Santamaria (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo), Nilson Loyola (Melgar).
Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Pedro Aquino (Leon), Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City), Paolo Hurtado (Vitoria Guimaraes), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Wilder Cartagena (Veracruz).
Andre Carrillo (Benfica), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo).
FIFA World Ranking: 36th
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 4 Best Place: Last 16 in Germany 2006.
Possible XI: (4-5-1) Ryan (GK), Behich (LB), Sainsbury (CB), Wright (CB), Degenek (RB), Luango (LM), Rogic (CM), Jedinak (CM), Mooy (CM), Leckie (RM), Juric (ST).
Bert Van Marwijk (HOL) Age 65
Having helped Saudi Arabia qualify for Russia 2018 he decided not to renew his contract with them and subsequently took over the Socceroo’s in January 2018. His approach while at the helm of Australia is similar to what he did as the Netherlands coach and turned them into a very physical and well organised side, harder to break down at the back than at the start of their road to Russia. Previous manager Ange Postecoglou was widely criticized for switching to a back three, Van Marwijk changed that to a back four and saw off Syria and Honduras in the play-off to reach Russia 2018. His honours as a manager include winning the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord in 2002 and took the Netherlands to the World Cup final is South Africa 2010.
Tim Cahill (105 caps / 50 goals)
It's no surprise that Tim Cahill is mentioned in this part of my preview as he is in some circles considered the greatest player Australia have ever produced on a football field. He is not only a legend at home but also in England where he moved to Millwall then spent his best years at Everton demonstrating his aggressive direct play, a traits which are just as appreciated in England as in Australia. Having made his mark in his last outing in a World Cup, a stunning volley against the Netherland’s in Porto Alegre, Brazil and now at the ripe old age of 38, this is likely to be his last outing on the biggest of world stages. His two goals help see off Syria in the play-offs and contributed in the wins over Honduras, then in January he re-signed for Millwall but didn’t get a lot of time on the pitch, and it would not be a surprise if he starts for Australia in the bench. He will be used as an impact player, as a super-sub, and with the lack of goal scorers in the starting XI his presence will always be a danger to the opposition.
WATCH OUT FOR...
Aaron Mooy (32 caps / 5 goals)
A central midfielder who is pivotal in the style and tempo of play for Australia his imagination in those positions further afield will be invaluable. Sitting alongside the defensibly minded Mile Jedinak , Mooy will look for runners out wide or for the bursting runs of attacking midfielder Tom Rogic. Known as the ‘Pasty Pirlo’ in his home country, Mooy has the opportunity to show why he has the potential to be as important as Tim Cahill has been to the team in recent years. Although not known for his goal scoring abilities like Cahill, while at his former club Melbourne City he made 21 assists which remains an A-League record to this day for assists in a season. He had a solid season with Huddersfield Town as they secured another year in the Premier League.
Australia had their golden generation during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The likes of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka are long gone but they still have that steel and determination to their play that may come in handy when fighting to stay top two of group C alongside Peru and Denmark. Whilst France is understandably seen as the team to finish top Australia might fancy their chances against ‘weaker opposition’, playing against the likes of Cristian Eriksen or Paolo Guerrero is hardly ‘easy’ but it demonstrates their most likely route into the next roun. Unfortunately I see them falling at the first hurdle, going home once the group stage is over.
Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk).
Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Blue Wings), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshopper Zurich).
Jackson Irvine (Hull City), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Mark Milligan (Al-Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic), Tim Cahill (Millwall).
Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian).
FIFA World Ranking: 12th
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 4 Best Place: Qtr. finals, France 98.
Possible XI: (3-4-2-1) Schmeichel (GK), Kjaer (CB), Christensen (CB), XXXXXXX (CB), Stryger Larsen (RM), Kvist (CM), Delaney (CM), Durmisi (LM), Eriksen (CAM), Sisto (CAM), N.Jorgensen (ST).
Age Hareide (NOR) Age 64
He took over from Danish legend Morten Olsen who had been managing Denmark for 15 years so following that up was always going to be a tricky task. Despite not starting well in qualifying, losing their two of their opening three games of qualifying to Poland and Montenegro, they fought valiantly until the end to earn them a 2nd place in the group behind Poland and a spot in the play-offs. There they met Ireland where an aggregate of 5-1 saw them into this summer’s football carnival. As a club manager Hareide is the only man to win league titles in all three Scandinavian nations with Helsingborg and Malmo in Sweden, Rosenberg in Norway and Brondby in Denmark. He likes to keep to a 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1 formation and have Eriksen as the main attacking threat with a strong target man up front, Yussuf Poulsen and Andreas Cornelius the likely contenders for that position.
Christian Eriksen (77 caps / 21 goals)
Joint third in UEFA World Cup qualifying with 11 goals Eriksen has certainly shown the qualities which have drawn comparisons to Danish legend Brian Laudrup. It was on that night in Dublin during the play-offs where Eriksen really came out to shine as his hat-trick and superb play showed the world that he is a real world class talent and is Denmark’s most important player of a generation,. He operates as an attacking midfielder and is not only there to provide for the front man but he is just as important when it comes to scoring goals, something which you would never really relate with Eriksen and he had a poor goal scoring record before the qualifiers began, for club and country. A set-pieces specialist who had a fantastic last two years at Tottenham Hotspur he should be going into the competition in form and raring to go.
WATCH OUR FOR...
Pione Sisto (12 caps / 1 goal)
Sisto made his mark in the Europa league in 2016 scoring 4 goals in 5 games with Danish side Midtjylland which then subsequently earned him a move to La Liga side Celta Vigo. Predominately a wide player, Sisto has pace skill and trickery needed for an influential winger and alongside Christian Eriksen he could be considered Denmark’s other player destined to be a world class asset. Born in Uganda, but moved to Denmark at 2 months old. His development over the last two years have come on a lot and the connection he has with front man Poulsen and Eriksen comes as no surprise with the Danish dressing room atmosphere at an all-time high. Full backs beware; Sisto has speed and is not afraid to use it.
Aage Hareide has a squad glowing with confidence thanks to that impressive 5-1 victory away to Ireland but in the last two recent friendlies things haven’t gone their way, two 0-0 draws to Sweden and Chile doesn’t look good and a huge improvement is needed. They will need to get a good results against Australia and Peru, beating France isn’t impossible but will be a tall order but getting past the two weaker opponents of the group will boost their chances of going into the last 16 where I feel that could be it for them.
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Frederik Ronnow (Brondby), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield).
Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jens Stryger Larsen (Udinese), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich).
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen), William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux).
Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax), Martin Braithwaite (Middlesbrough), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig).