Part of why I like these kinds of groups is that one spot in the knockout stages seems very open and can possibly be claimed by all three teams behind France. Denmark and Peru seem the most capable of grabbing that second spot and while I have soft spot for Tim Cahill and the Socceroos and refuse to call them the minnows of this group, it’s a very tough road ahead.
Why do we call this a “primer” and not a preview? Because this is more a lot of key information in one place that I think is a handy reference for viewers rather than a ton of specific analysis on what each team can or could do at the World Cup.
Friday, June 16
6 AM – France vs Australia, Kazan Arena, Kazan, FS1/Telemundo
Noon – Peru vs Denmark, Mordovia Arena, Saransk, FS1/Telemundo
Thursday, June 21
8 AM – Denmark vs Australia (Group C), Samara Arena, Samara, FS1
11 AM – France vs Peru (Group C), Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg, FOX
Tuesday, June 26
10 AM – Denmark vs France, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, FOX/Telemundo or Universo
10 AM – Australia vs Peru, Fisht Stadium, Sochi, FS1/Telemundo or Universo
Head Coach: Bert van Marwijk (NED)
Rankings: FIFA 36 / ELO 32
Qualification: Won Aggregate Playoff vs Honduras 3-1
Appearance: 5th / Best Finish: Round of 16 (2006)
Recent Results: June 1, vs Czech Rep, W 4-0; June 9, at Hungary, W 2-1
Player You Should Know: FW Tim Cahill, Unattached, 106 caps / 50 goals - Socceroos legend and NY Red Bulls and Everton great among other stops, the 38 year old striker scored the winning goal in extra time in the Asian qualifying playoff round over Syria to get himself and Australia back to the World Cup last October.
Player You Should Watch: MF Mile Jedinak, Aston Villa (ENG), 76 caps / 18 goals - The captain and holding midfielder is second on the roster in caps and goals behind Cahill. If Australia is going to get results, he might have to impact games both ends of the field.
Australia is battle tested in that they needed two playoff victories over Syria and Honduras to get to the World Cup, but this team is hard to pin down. They did pretty well at the Confederations’ Cup last summer despite a group stage exit, losing to Germany 3-2 and tying both Chile and Cameroon 1-1. But they were the odd team out in AFC’s Third Round Group B, finishing one point back of Japan and level on points with Saudi Arabia but went to the playoff on goal difference. It’s tough to see Australia getting out of this group but I could certainly see them getting a point or two like they did last summer.
Head Coach: Age Hareide (NOR)
Rankings: FIFA 12 / ELO 16
Nickname: Danish Dynamite
Qualification: Won UEFA (Europe) Playoff vs Ireland 5-1
Appearance: 5th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1998)
Player You Should Know: GK Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City (ENG), 35 caps - One of the heroes of the Foxes’ legendary EPL title run and son of Danish legend Peter, Kasper gets his chance at World Cup glory.
Player You Should Watch: MF Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur (ENG), 78 caps / 22 goals - Another fantastic player from Spurs at the World Cup, Eriksen is one of the most experienced players in the sqaud at just 26 years old. His hat trick in Dublin propelled the Danes into the tournament and there’s a good chance he’ll be back with the bulk of this team four years from now as well.
This is a fascinating group and the Danes are part of the reason why. They’re a solid team especially at the back where they led UEFA’s Group E with just 8 goals allowed but couldn’t keep pace with group winners Poland in the standings. There’s not a lot of international goals from the striking corps on the roster, but with Eriksen leading the way that shouldn’t be a huge issue. Their matchup with Peru could decide who finishes second in the group.
Head Coach: Didier Deschamps (FRA)
Rankings: FIFA 7 / ELO 4
Nickname: Les Bleus
Qualification: UEFA (Europe) Group A Winners
Appearance: 15th / Best Finish: Champions (1998)
Roster Breakdown: 9 Domestic, 6 Spain, 5 England, 2 Germany, 1 Italy
Recent Results: May 28, vs Ireland, W 2-0; June 1, vs Italy, W 3-1; June 9, vs United States, D 1-1
Player You Should Know: GK Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur (ENG), 98 caps - Assuming he gets the nod for the bulk of France’s games, Lloris will pass the century mark for international caps at this tournament and will be in charge of organizing a defensive backline with only one French player older than 25 on the roster.
Player You Should Watch: MF Paul Pogba, Manchester United (ENG), 54 caps / 9 goals - Pogba is in need of a breakout tournament and with a young France squad that’s only going to get better, this World Cup could be the start of a very successful run for the French over the next few cycles.
They are by far the group favorites but it is entirely possibly they can slip up against a team like Denmark or even Peru. The question is not how far can this team go, but how far this generation of players can go down the road. This is an incredibly talented squad and many of these players are still entering their primes. They can go far this year but really this tournament experience will go a long way as they should be one of the favorites in 2022.
Head Coach: Ricardo Gareca (ARG)
Rankings: FIFA 11 / ELO 10
Nickname: Los Incas
Qualification: Won Aggregate playoff vs. New Zealand 2-0
Appearance: 5th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1970, 1978)
Recent Results: May 29, vs Scotland, W 2-0; June 3, at Saudi Arabia (in Switzerland), W 3-0; June 9, at Sweden, D 0-0
Players You Should Know: MF Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City, USA/MLS) and Andy Polo (Portland Timbers, USA/MLS), combined 91 caps, 3 goals - A shoutout two the two MLS players on the roster for Peru’s first tournament in almost forty years.
Player You Should Watch: FW Paolo Guerrero, Flamengo (BRA), 88 caps / 34 goals - Guerrero was nearly suspended for the World Cup, having a positive drug test overturned right before the tournament started. At 34 years old, the captain and Peruvian legend finally gets a chance to play at a World Cup
This is a pretty solid and young team with a legit star in Guerrero. Peru could be a serious darkhorse in the knockout stages but I am trying to temper my expectations for them. Like Denmark, I think they have a good chance at second place and might even be able to give France a few fits in the second game. Facing Australia last might help or hurt them in the schedule depending on the opening result against Denmark.
France take the group and possibly in a landslide if they have it together from the start. A big win over Australia would give them enough momentum into the knockout stages and leave Denmark and Peru fighting it out for second. I’ll give the experience edge to the Danes here, but there’s no wrong answer. Argentina as the likely Group D winner awaits the runner-up and that’s probably where the run ends for either team.
1) France - 9 pts; 2) Denmark - 4 pts; 3) Peru - 2 pts; 4) Australia - 1 pt