Group C of the 2018 World Cup sees heavyweights France take on Australia, Peru, and Denmark. While France are almost guaranteed to make it through to the next round, the other spot is fairly open. Peru and Denmark could both make the cut if they live up to their potential, with Australia also in with a chance if their young side can turn their midfield strength into real goal scoring opportunities.
The French national team have had mixed fortunes of late, losing to Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and losing to Portugal at home in the Euro 2016 Final. France could really do with a big tournament win, which might just come this year in Russia. The current French team are young and filled with flair, having won twice recently against World Cup winners Germany. If they can find a way to use their midfield movement and attacking prowess to their advantage, this team could make it a long way. While Coach Didier Deschamps has turned France into a highly competitive team, they have also been inconsistent. Lapses in concentration and weak defence continue to haunt the team, with Raphael Varane needing more help at the back if they're going to keep out the likes of Brazil. The speed of the French counter-attack can cause serious damage, however, with the explosive attack of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, and Ousmane Dembélé matched by the solid midfield of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté.
This will be the fourth consecutive time that Australia have qualified for the World Cup Finals. They are yet to make it out of the Group stage, however, with this task not made any easier for them in Russia. As the 31st team to qualify, the Socceroos had to work harder than anyone else to make the cut. After failing to secure direct entry in Asia due to a slightly inferior goal difference to Saudi Arabia, the Australians needed to win dual play-offs against Syria and Honduras. The Socceroos are also suffering from instability after the resignation of coach Ange Postecoglou in November, with Bert van Marwijk now taking the reigns. If Australia do manage to move on to the Round of 16, it will be because of their midfield strength and general attacking style. Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy and Celtic’s Tom Rogic are worth watching out for, as are Mathew Leckie, Mile Jedinak, and 37-year-old Tim Cahill. While it might go without saying, Australia have to find a way to score goals if they're going to progress, with a lack of quality finishes the one thing that plagued them throughout qualifying.
This exciting South American team weren't supposed to make it to Russia, with Chile, Ecuador, and Paraguay all missing out on the fifth qualifying spot because this young team simply wouldn't give up. Peru haven't competed at a World Cup for 36 years, and make no mistake, they'll want to make this one count. Coach Ricardo Gareca has brought in exciting new players and reintroduced a traditional style of football that hasn't been seen in the country for some time. Think Spain or Barcelona, with short passes and possession defining their style. Most of the best Peruvian talent plays in Mexico, including forwards Raul Ruidiaz and Andy Polo, midfielders Yoshimar Yotún and Pedro Aquino, defender Luis Advincula, and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. This young squad certainly have momentum on their side, and if they can keep their discipline and organisation when playing against Denmark and Australia, they could join France in the Round of 16.
Denmark will be favourites to make the knockout stages along with France, with this team coming off two comprehensive victories against Poland 4-0 and the Republic of Ireland 5-1 to finish off a solid qualifying campaign. In fact, Denmark have been unbeaten in 11 games since they suffered back-to-back losses against Poland and Montenegro in October 2016. Coach Age Hareide has Denmark well organised and hungry for victory, with one of the fastest-improving teams in Europe likely to prove tough opposition for the other teams in Group C. A lot of their recent success can be put down to Christian Eriksen, with the Tottenham star scoring 11 goals in eight games during Denmark's unbeaten streak. Other players to watch out for include midfielder Thomas Delaney, defender Andreas Bjelland, and captain Simon Kjær. This team also has great depth up front, with Nicolai Jorgensen, Andreas Cornelius, and Nicklas Bendtner all fighting it out for one place. Denmark haven't played a major tournament since Euro 2012, so they will be looking to make the most of this opportunity. With the Danish public back in love with the national team, Peru and Australia will need to play extremely well to keep them out of the next round.