This French side is one of the favorites to win the World Cup this summer. They have unbelievable players in not only the starting XI but also all the way throughout bench, the entirety of the squad and even the reserves. France finished runners up at Euro 2016 on home soil after losing to Portugal and they certainly have the talent to do one better in Russia. One reason people remain skeptical is the manager, former French legend, Dider Deschamps who often deploys France in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. Many people do not believe he gets the best out of the squad available to him and most of his critics think that anything less than victory this summer should see the end of the end his reign.
Captain Hugo Lloris will start in goal although this is something of a debate amongst French supporters. Lloris has had a rough patch of form for both club and country. On his day, however, he is one of the best keepers in the world and his ability to act as a sweeper as well gives the France side the ability to play higher up the pitch and put the opposition under pressure. With the injury of Laurent Koscielney, Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti will start in the center of defense. Fullback is probably the biggest weakness for the side. Benjamin Mendy is coming back from injury but his match fitness and sharpness is a big question. Sidibe on the other side is a good player but not someone who quite matches the rest of the star-studded squad.
France have an embarrassment of riches in midfield and in the forward areas. In midfield N’golo Kante is certain to be the holding midfielder. Anyone who watches the English Premier League knows his unbelievable defensive ability and the centerbacks will certainly benefit from having Kante in front of them. Paul Pogba has been under criticism for performances at Manchester United and with the national team but Didier Deschamps seems set to maintain the faith with him. Blaise Matuidi and Corentin Tolisso will likely be the players competing for a spot in the starting XI should the manager set them up in 4-3-3.
Up top France has incredibly exciting players. Antoine Griezmann is the undisputed star for the national team and will either start next to another forward or on the right wing. New PSG star Kylian Mbappe will be the main man in a 4-3-3 although Olivier Giroud would likely start should they go with a 4-4-2. Thomas Lemar or Ousmane Dembele will likely start on the left. Both players have struggled this season, Dembele through injury and Lemar with his form but are uniquely talented players and any opposing fullback they come up against will need to be at the top of their game to defend against them.
Antoine Griezmann. The star amongst stars. Griezmann is one of the best forwards in the world and he has proved that at club level and, more importantly, internationally with startling consistency. France’s final appearance at Euro 2016 was mostly on the back of Griezmann and was rewarded by being named player of the tournament.
Klyian Mbappe. Every French player is well known around the world. Mbappe gained recognition for his performances for Monaco and then his monster transfer to PSG. He is part of the famous front three of PSG alongside Neymar and Edinson Cavani and is already a star. However, I think this could be the time that he breaks out for the national team and starts to make his mark.
For the first time in 15 years Denmark are going to a World Cup without Morten Olsen at the helm. Åge Hareide is the man who took over for the Danish icon and has shown glimpses that he might be able to improve upon the former legendary manager. Denmark are firing on all cylinders and have an excellent chance to advance out of a pretty difficult group. Denmark will almost certainly lineup in a 4-3-3 and a large part of their success is managing to get the best out of their star player while still maintaining a strong team spirit.
Leicester City legend and son of former Denmark star Peter Schmeichel, Kasper Schmeichel starts in goal and a very good all-round keeper. He is a good shot stopper and has shown a penchant for big time penalty saves. I would not be surprised to see a Denmark get a result that determines their World Cup progression due to a massive penalty save by Schmeichel. Denmark has a strong central defensive partnership with Simon Kjaer and Andreas Bjelland. Bjelland players for Brentford in the English Championship and is a calm presence on the ball and can pass the ball out from the back. He has managed to keep Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen out of the side which is quite impressive given Christensen’s form.
Denmark has two very talented players in midfield. Thomas Delaney just recently signed for Borussia Dortmund and is a big, strong and talented player in midfield. He is a danger from set pieces but that is not meant to diminish his abilities on the ball. The aforementioned star player of the Danish side is Tottenham star, Christian Eriksen. He is an incredibly well-rounded attacking player and is the largest single source of Denmark’s attacking threat. Eriksen is an excellent set piece taker, has incredible vision and passing range and is also an excellent goal scorer. He is the swiss army knife for the Denmark squad and key to their success this summer.
On the wing Ugandan born Pione Sisto offers a mix of pace and dribbling ability that is lacking from the rest of the Denmark side. Sisto plays for Celta Vigo in Spain and has been very impressive and fits their high energy style that, in many ways, Denmark has implemented into their national team. Everyone’s favorite, Nicklas Bendtner is out through injury and Nicolai Jorgensen is likely to start up top in his place.
Christian Eriksen. I talked about him at length earlier but it is not possible to overstate his importance to this team. In so many ways, Denmark goes as far as Eriksen can take them. He had a massive hand in their qualification for the tournament and with him at his best Denmark can be confident of getting past the group stage.
Pione Sisto. He’s an exciting player to watch and his pace will cause the opposition problems. He will benefit from Eriksen’s vision and range and I think those two will be the main source of Denmark’s attacking threat.
Australia has become an almost ever presence at the World Cup in the last 20 years. However, it appears that Australia one of its poorest sides in recent memory and in a lot of ways, appear to not really know the direction that they want to go. Their former manager Ange Postecoglou was a high tempo and wanted his team to press high up the pitch. After flirting with failing to qualify for the World Cup, Australia beat Honduras in a two-legged playoff to secure their spot. However, Postecoglou lost his job and former Netherlands and Saudi Arabia manger Bert van Marwijk has taken over. Van Marwijk is the antithesis of Postecoglou and he values solidity and tactical organization and is much more negative than the overly adventurous Postecoglou. Van Marwijk plays a 4-2-3-1 formation and the midfield five is strength of the team.
Matt Ryan starts in goal for Australia and has rebounded from a rough start at Brighton and was the undisputed starter for Albion. Trent Sainsbury is the leader of the defense and a quality defender but the rest of the backline is underwhelming and could be exposed. Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak, of Huddersfield and Aston Villa respectively, are excellent players and will be the holding midfielders for the side. Mile Jedinak is the captain and scored a hat-trick against Honduras to clinch the Socceroos’ qualification to the World Cup. Aaron Mooy has struggled to translate his club form to international level but if he can change that he offers an incredible passing range and goal scoring ability from midfield.
Robbie Kruse and Matt Leckie are most likely to be the starting wingers and are extremely quick players and will be threats on the counter. They are dangerous players but don’t offer much in possession and are pretty one-dimensional players. Tom Rogic of Celtic will start at attacking midfielder and is a creative player who Australia will need to unlock defenses. Tomi Juric or Andrew Nabbout will start at forward with Juric if he is fully fit.
Mile Jedinak. Australia’s captain who leads by example. He is a strong defensive midfielder who manages to get on the score sheet consistently with the national team. He’s a threat from set pieces and Australia will need him to be in the form that he was in against Honduras in the playoff games to have a chance to progress to the next round. Also, just look at that beard.
Daniel Arzani. At 19 years old, Arzani is coming off a breakout year in the A-League with Melbourne City. He can play at attacking midfielder or winger and could get a chance to start over Kruse or Leckie. He’s a player who can offer a bit more creativity than the two wingers and his combination with Rogic could provide a spark. He might have to be patient and come off the bench at first but he is almost certain to get his shot.
Manager Ricardo Gareca is a legend in Peru after leading the national team to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Peru managed to qualify for the tournament after beating New Zealand in a two-legged playoff following finishing fifth in the South American region ahead of the likes of Chile and Paraguay. Peru usually play a 4-2-3-1 but can switch to a 4-4-2 when chasing a game. Peru and Denmark will likely be the two sides fighting for second place in the Group C and a spot in the knockout round.
Pedro Gallese, who plays in Mexico with Veracruz, will start in goal. The backline is solid and better as a sum of it parts than its individual parts with veteran Alberto Rodríguez and Christian Ramos as central defenders. The holding midfielders Renato Tapia and Yoshimar Yotún are underrated players who work well with each other. Yotún plays for Orlando City in the MLS and is a versatile player who can play on the left in midfield or defense. Tapia plays for Feyenoord in the Dutch Eredivisie and is also a versatile player who can play on the right or center of defense.
The three attackers in front of the holding midfielders are André Carrillo, Christian Cueva and Jefferson Farfán and all three are excellent players for Peru. Christian Cueva plays for São Paulo in Brazil, he plays behind the forward and is a creative player who links well with the forward and wingers, he is responsible for most attacking play in the Peru squad.
Most of the news surrounding Peru has surrounded the status of their captain and star player Paolo Guerrero. Fortunately for Peru, his suspension has been lifted and he is available for the tournament. The 34-year-old Guerrero plays for Flamengo in Brazil and is the all-time leading scorer for the national team and scored five goals in qualifying including a crucial equalizer against Uruguay on the last round of qualification.
Paolo Guerrero. The forward embodies the grit and spirit of this Peru side. He leads from the front and has a penchant for scoring important goals.
Edison Flores. Flores plays in Denmark with Aalborg and could potentially start over Carrillo and played very well against Paraguay and Ecuador.