With the 2018 World Cup about to start, Emabis takes a look through Group C where he thinks one of the minnows may surprise.
Group C features France, Denmark, Peru and Australia.
In stereotypical fashion, France are an enigma. Not only do they have one of the deepest squads at the World Cup, they also boast an unrivaled first eleven of world-class talent to include Hugo Lloris in goal; Benjamin Mendy, Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane in defence; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Thomas Lemar in midfield and Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousman Dembele up front. So with Rolls Royce players, why has France performed like an Opel Vectra in qualification and at their home Euro 2016?
For me, there are serious question marks over Didier Deschamps. Both in the way he sets up his team and selects players to fit within it. For instance, despite finishing top of Group A ahead of Sweden, Holland, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus, France only scored eighteen goals in ten games. With all their attacking talent, this just shouldn’t be the case. Zinane and Wenger are both waiting in the wings so Russia is Deschamps’ final chance to prove his doubters wrong. And after a 1-1 draw with USA in their most recent friendly, there are many.
After finishing behind Poland in Group E (ahead of Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan), Denmark qualified for Russia via a convincing playoff victory against Ireland. But having watched them up close in both playoff games, there’s little to fear from Denmark apart from Christian Eriksen. Known more for assists than goals in the Premier League, the Spurs’ man scored eleven goals in twelve qualification games to single-handedly fire Denmark into the finals.
The Danes have decent World Cup pedigree. In their previous four appearances, they qualified for the knock-out stages in three – the exception being their last appearance at South Africa 2010. But keep Eriksen quiet and Denmark are a very average side.
This is Peru’s first appearance at the World Cup finals since Spain 1982. And it’s an appearance earned with some controversy as they pipped Chile to the final qualification spot on goal difference (two) after a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia was reversed to a 3-0 win due to their opponents briefly fielding an ineligible player. A three point, five goal swing. A 2-0 playoff win to New Zealand sealed their place in Russia.
Excluding their playoff games, Peru scored twenty-seven goals in qualification with trio Paolo Guerrero, Jefferson Farfan and Edison Flores bagging fourteen of those. This tally exceeded both third-place Argentina (by eight) and fourth place Colombia (by six). But Peru also conceded a whopping twenty-six goals – six more than their closest other qualifier – which could have been twenty-eight if the initial Bolivia result was allowed to stand. They will need to improve defensively to qualify.
Australia’s qualification was far from impressive. After first topping Group B with ease, ahead of Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Bangladesh, they then only managed a third place group finish behind Japan and Saudi Arabia to earn playoff ties against Syria (where they required extra-time to win 3-2 on aggregate) and Honduras (where they won 3-1 on aggregate). This is the Socceroos fourth successive World Cup finals qualification – their other appearance being in 1974 – in which they’ve secured only two wins and three draws from thirteen games to qualify from their group once (in 2006).
Still reliant on a 38 year old Tim Cahill for goals, the fact that Hudderfield’s Aaron Mooy is their star player tells you all you need to know about Australia’s quality. It's limited.
France should win this group comfortably whilst also giving their entire squad some game time. Even Deschamps can't mess this up.
Australia will do well to secure any points, never mind win a game. They are deserved favourites to finish bottom of Group C.
As noted above, Denmark are limited with the exception of Eriksen and Ireland kept them quiet in their first playoff meeting. By contrast, I’ve been impressed by Peru’s friendly results this year – a 2-0 win to Croatia, a 3-1 win to Iceland, a 2-0 win to Scotland, a 3-0 win to Saudi Arabia and a scoreless draw with Sweden. I quietly fancy Peru to steal second place from Denmark.
Predicted Group Standings
Recommended Group Bet
Peru are 2/1 to qualify but, due to Deschamps' misfiring France, you can get almost double those odds by taking Peru to qualify behind France.
France / Peru, Straight Forecast in Group C @ 7/2 with Paddy Power.
Recommended Group Match Bet
Despite being odds-on to finish bottom of Group C, Australia are also favourites to beat Peru in their final group game. The match odds appear wrong and Peru merit support at odds-against.