Australia – 7501/1 188Bet
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Manager: Bert van Marwijk
FIFA Rank: 40
Bert van Marwijk is an experienced manager. The Dutchman managed at Borussia Dortmund, a time at the Bundesliga club that was sandwiched between two spells at Feyenoord. He later had a four-year spell in charge of the Dutch national team. The manager has already rolled the dice by including veteran Tim Cahill into Australia’s preliminary 26-man squad.
Australia have a mixture of experience and youth among their ranks. Cahill (105 caps), Mile Jedinak (75 caps) Robbie Kruse (62 caps) have got plenty of experience. Huddersfield Town’s Aaron Mooy had an excellent season in the Premier League. If selected, midfielder Tom Rogic will take the momentum of a successful domestic campaign with Celtic into this year’s World Cup. Jedinak will also be looking to finish his domestic campaign on a high with Aston Villa, as they look for a return to the Premier League via the playoffs.
Australia made hard work of qualification, finishing third behind Japan and Suadi Arabia. Ironically van Marwijk led Saudi Arabia to automatic qualification. Australia need to learn a lesson from qualification, they must see the game out. The Socceroos are going to have a very tough time of it, especially as their opening game comes against France. Team spirit alone won’t be enough to see the Socceroos advance to the knockout stages, they’re going to need a lot of luck.
Denmark – 100/1 Various bookies
Captain: Simon Kjær
Manager: Age Hareide
Nickname: De Rod-Hvide
FIFA Rank: 12
Denmark are a team that shouldn’t be underestimated. Ranked one place above England, they hammered Poland 4-0 in qualifying before breaking Irish hearts with a 5-1 aggregate score in the playoffs. Without getting carried away it’s worth pointing out that Denmark lost 3-2 Jordan in a recent friendly. Head Coach Age Hareide likes to switch his tactics so don’t expect to see a consistent starting XI. Fans have been frustrated at the omission of Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen is the standout player for Denmark. Much of Denmark’s success will depend on whether or not Eriksen can influence the game. Along with Sevilla’s Simon Kjær, Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel will provide plenty of leadership in the Denmark dressing room.
At 11/2, the Danes have the quality to reach the last eight, equaling the success of the 1998 squad, they will however, need to pip Peru to second place in Group C. Two wins and a draw is not beyond the Red and Whites in the group stage. Nobody gave them a chance at Euro ’92 and at 100/1 nobody is giving them a chance this time around.
Peru – 250/1 Various bookies
Captain: Alberto Rodriguez
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Nickname: La Bicolor or La Blanquirroja
FIFA ranking: 11
It’s a first World Cup in 36 years for Peru but they will be without their experienced captain Paolo Guerrero, he’s been banned by the Anti-Doping Agency. They were a little fortuitous to qualify for the World Cup.
Head Coach Ricardo Gareca favours a 4-2-3-1 formation with stand in skipper Alberto Rodriguez playing at the heart of defence. André Carrillo scored one and had two assists for Watford in the Premier League. The 26-year-old winger is likely to play behind the number 9 along with Jefferson Farfan.
Peru are 5/2 (several bookies) to reach the knockout stages. Success may simply boil down to finishing in Group C above Australia. It’s likely to be an early exit from Russia but don’t tell that to the Peruvians.
France – 7/1 Various bookies
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Nickname: Les Bleus
FIFA Rank: 7
Didier Deschamps has made some difficult decisions with his squad selection. Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial did not make the final 23-man squad. Dimitri Payet’s injury means that the Marseille star will not feature for Les Blues. The French will look to put their Euro 2016 disappointment behind them. France didn’t blow away their qualifying opponents which included Sweden and Holland, that’s a surprise considering the quality in depth available.
It’s difficult to pick out France’s ‘key player’ but there’s no one in better form than Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The 27-year-old led Atleti to Europa League success and a second-place finish in La Liga, ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid. His form looks to have earned him a move to Barcelona. Speaking of Barcelona, Ousmane Dembélé could be one to watch this Summer, he’s been linked with a move to Champions League finalists, Liverpool.
This is arguably the most exciting team at this World Cup. The first target for France must be to top Group. Arguably the biggest headache for Deschamps is working out which of his stars he will leave on the bench. Deschamps should steer his side the semi-finals, however, the average number of French caps is 24, that might be their undoing.
*Written on May 18th by John Wozniak **Odds correct at the time of writing
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