This summer we are fortunate enough to once again have the Greatest* Soccer Tournament on the planet to keep us entertained until NFL Training Camps start. In anticipation of the 2018 World Cup kicking off in mid-June in Russia, we’ll be taking a look at all 32 teams in each of the 8 groups.
* – The 2018 World Cup comes with an asterisk on “Greatest” because 5 of the Top 25 teams in the World failed to qualify. Those 5 are some of the biggest names and biggest draws both locally (with the United States missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986) and internationally with Italy, Chile, the Netherlands, and Wales.
Today, we continue with Group C featuring 3 of the Top 12 teams in the FIFA World Rankings. Check out the previews of the other groups:
France is always an entertaining squad at the World Cup because they seemingly either put together a deep run with talented play or massively flame out in a gigantic shitstorm. They are, after all, French. This is France’s 6th straight World Cup and that run has been punctuated by winning it all in 1998 and a second place finish in 2006 (memorably when Zinedene Zidane head-butted an Italian player).
France is one of the favorites to win it all after blowing through their qualification group with a 7-2-1 mark and a second place finish at Euro 2016. On top of that, France has only lost once in the last year. Their pre-World Cup friendlies featured convincing 2-goal wins over Russia, Ireland, and Italy.
Players to Watch
France is stacked with elite talent at every level of the pitch. Up front, Chelsea’s Oliver Giroud and Antoine Griezmann are the most experienced players with talented youngsters in 21-year old Ousmane Dembele and 19-year old Kylian Mbappe in the mix. Midfielder Paul Pogba (Manchester United) was one of the breakout stars of the 2014 World Cup. Keeper Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur produced 15 clean sheets last season in the EPL and will need to be in top form for France to win their second World Cup.
Australia is making their 4th consecutive World Cup appearance and 5th in their history. They have made it past the group stage once – in 2006 when they fell in the Round of 16. The Socceroos won the 2015 Asian Cup which earned them a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup where they went 0-2-1 and did not advance past the group stage.
Australia had a rocky road to qualify for their 4th straight World Cup. The Socceroos finished tied with Saudi Arabia for second in their qualifying group but lost the goal differential tiebreaker. This sent them to a playoff with Syria which they eked out in extra time for a 3-2 aggregate victory. As the 5th place AFC team they had to face off against the CONCACAF 4th place team Honduras in another playoff to earn a spot in Russia. Australia prevailed with a 3-1 win in the second leg to reach the World Cup.
Players to Watch
The legendary Tim Cahill at 38 years old is still part of the Socceroos squad with his 105 caps and 50 international goals. Cahill scored 11 goals during the World Cup qualification cycle, tied for the 5th most of any player. Midfielder Mile Jedinak of Aston Villa wil captain the squad after scoring 10 goals during qualification.
This will be Peru’s 5th World Cup appearance all-time and their first since 1982. They made it out of the group stage twice (in 1970 and 1978). The Incas have performed well regionally of late, finishing 3rd in both the 2011 and 2015 Copa America tournaments and reaching the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
Peru was the last team to qualify for the World Cup, but are no slouches, coming in as FIFA’s 11th ranked team. After finishing 5th in CONMEBOL qualifying and edging Copa America champions Chile on goal differential, Peru went to the intercontinental playoffs. There they drew New Zealand in the first leg then won 2-0 in the second leg to secure their spot in Russia.
Players to Watch
Peru is making their first World Cup appearance in 36 years but has found a mix of youth and experience on their squad. Forwards Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan both have over 80 caps. Midfielders Yoshimar Yotun and Andy Polo are both MLS players, for Orlando and Portland respectively.
Denmark is making their 5th World Cup appearance and has only exited in the group stage once before (2010). The best finish was in the “Danish Dynamite” era of the late 90s when they reached the Quarterfinals in 1998.
Denmark finished behind Poland in their qualification group and had to face Ireland in a playoff to earn a spot. After a 0-0 draw in the first leg, Denmark exploded for 5 goals to earn a spit in Russia. The Danes are on a bit of a hot streak and have not lost a game since October of 2016, going 7-6-0 in that span.
Players to Watch
Midfielder Christian Eriksen of Tottenham scored 11 goals during the qualification cycle, tied for the 5th most of any player. Eriksen’s hat trick against Ireland broke open a 1-1 game and sent Denmark to the World Cup.
Here are the predictions of the SCB crew (including a special guest appearance by soccer expert SteelSon) on which teams from Group C will advance to the Knockout Stage.