France are the team to beat in Group C of the World Cup. Despite some unconvincing results in qualifying Les Bleus will be disappointed if they don’t top the group.
Denmark’s mix of skillful and physically-imposing players should see them clinch second, but their tournament success is likely to depend largely on the performance of key midfielder Christian Eriksen.
Australia will be organized but scoring goals could be a problem. Peru also look light offensively, particularly after their captain and striker Paolo Guerrero was ruled out of the tournament when a controversial drugs ban was increased (more below). Peru look the more likely to challenge for second.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER?
Kylian Mbappé (France): €184.2m ($217.5m)
*According to CIES Football Observatory
ONE TO WATCH?
Thomas Delaney (Denmark)
The Werder Bremen midfielder only moved to Germany in January last year but is already attracting attention from Premier League clubs. Brighton reportedly had a bid rebuffed for the 26-year-old box-to-box midfielder who can also play a holding role. Though his late runs into the box and aerial prowess make him a goal threat – he scored a hattrick in qualifying – he may be asked to play a disciplined role focused on winning the ball and giving it to Eriksen. Delaney has the maturity to pull it off.
COACH TO KEEP AN EYE ON?
Bert van Marwijk (Australia)
The Dutchman was appointed in strange circumstances, after previous coach Ange Postecoglou resigned despite having led the Socceroos through the arduous Asian qualifying. Van Marwijk, most recently in charge of Saudi Arabia, was chosen based on his World Cup experience and will be replaced after the tournament. He took the Netherlands to the 2010 final, though his side was criticized for taking an aggressive approach against opponents (and tournament winners) Spain. No one expects him to go so far with an Australia team lacking depth, but he will at least be expected to make them competitive in a tricky-looking group.
Princess Mary of Denmark is from Australia and met her husband, Prince Frederik, in a Sydney pub. It should make for some interesting conversations in the royal palace when the Danes face the Aussies in the crunch second group match on June 21.
Peru’s distinctive white shirt with diagonal red sash is super stylish. It will be the only kit made by Umbro at the tournament.
MATCH ADVERTISERS WILL BE SCRAMBLING FOR?
If both teams need something to ensure qualification, Denmark vs. France in the final group game on June 26 looks intriguing.
WORLD CUP NERDS ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO…
Tim Cahill’s bid (if he’s picked for Australia’s final squad) to become only the fourth man to score in four consecutive World Cups. The 38-year-old would join Miroslav Klose, Germany (World Cup 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014), Pele, Brazil (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970) and Uwe Seeler, Germany (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970).
France to score goals. With dynamic attacking options including Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé, how can they not?
Coca tea at half-time. Made from coca leaves, the traditional Andean drink was blamed for Peru’s Paolo Guerrero testing positive for a banned substance. After receiving an extended ban, the talismanic captain and Peru’s all-time leading goalscorer will not play in Russia.
WILL ANY OF THEM WIN IT?
France’s name was supposed to be on the trophy during Euro 2016 before their surprise defeat to Portugal in the final. If coach Didier Deschamps can get the best from an enviable array of attacking talent, France will be serious contenders. The big question is at the other end of the pitch, where midfielder N’Golo Kante will be crucial in protecting a defence that can look shaky.