Manager: Didier Deschamps
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain)
Defenders: Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Adil Rami (Marseille), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid).
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Ngolo Kante (Chelsea), Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla).
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco).
FIFA Ranking: 7
Odds to win: 13/2
This year will mark France’s 15th appearance in the World Cup. However, France has only won the World Cup once, back in 1998. France coasted through their qualifying stage, topping Group A by four points in the UEFA qualifier. Impressively, their qualifying group was relatively strong with both Sweden and the Netherlands being formidable opponents.
Despite having an incredibly strong squad, France will need to play together as a cohesive unit if they are to be successful and ultimately win the World Cup. Paul Pogba, one of the most talented midfielders in the world, is prone to going missing in big moments. He often settles for the flashy flick-ons rather than playing the simple pass. With all eyes on him at the World Cup, it will be important for him to keep his composure despite all the pressure.
Nevertheless, having N’Golo Kante in the midfield should help ease the defensive responsibilities of Pogba. Kante will focus on the defensive side of things while Pogba focuses on what he does best, going forward.
Yet, despite all the talent in the attack and midfield, France’s World Cup campaign will come down to how well they can defend. France has a very talented pair of central defenders in Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane, but both have been somewhat inconsistent for the national side. Moreover, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been prone to making some bad blunders for his club, Tottenham Hotspur.
If the defense can minimize their mistakes, France should have a very deep run in the World Cup. But, if they cannot, Group C is strong enough that France could have an embarrassing tournament and surprisingly go out in the group stage.
Manager: Bert van Marwijk
Goalkeepers: Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk)
Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshoppers)
Midfielders: Jackson Irvine (Hull), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), Mark Milligan (Al Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Forwards: Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tim Cahill (Millwall), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa), James Maclaren (Darmstadt)
FIFA Ranking: 36
Odds to Win: 750/1
Australia will be making its fifth appearance in the World Cup. In the third round of AFC qualification,They finished third in Group B behind Saudi Arabia and Japan. As the third-place finishers, Australia then met Syria in a two-legged affair in the fourth round of AFC qualification. They topped Syria 3-2 on aggregate and then advanced to face Honduras with World Cup qualification on the line. Australia beat Honduras 3-1 on aggregate and secured their bid to the 2018 World Cup.
However, after Australia had qualified, their manager Ange Postecogl stepped down and was replaced by Bert van Marwijk. Marwijk has an impressive pedigree coaching internationally as he led the Dutch team to the finals in 2010 and managed Saudi Arabia throughout their qualification for the 2018 World Cup. He only left Saudi Arabia after not being able to agree to a new contract.
If Australia gets out of the group stages, Aaron Mooy will almost certainly have played an instrumental part. Mooy, a central midfielder who plays for Huddersfield in the Premier League, is Australia’s most important player. He is a deep-lying playmaker who can pick out pinpoint passes all over the pitch. He excelled in this role for Huddersfield and should do so again for the Socceroos.
Alongside him in the midfield will be Miles Jedinak, the captain, and leader of the team. Jedinak is a defensive midfielder who is incredibly dangerous from dead-ball situations. He scored all three goals in Australia’s 3-1 victory over Honduras and certainly has the quality to light up Russia.
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Veracruz-MEX), Carlos Caceda (Veracruz-MEX), Jose Carvallo (UTC)
Defenders: Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Lobos Buap), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Alberto Rodriguez (Atletico Junior), Anderson Santamaria (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo), Nilson Loyola (Melgar)
Midfielders: Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Pedro Aquino (Lobos Buap), Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City), Paolo Hurtado (Vitoria Guimaraes), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Wilder Cartagena (Veracruz)
Forwards: Andre Carrillo (Watford), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo)
FIFA Ranking: 11
Odds to win: 150/1
Peru qualifying for their first World Cup since 1982 is one of the most remarkable stories of the tournament. They were near the bottom of the CONMEBOL qualifiers in the middle of 2016 before they went on a run of fantastic form. They managed to claw their way back up the table with a string of great results, including an impressive 0-0 draw with Argentina. Ultimately, Peru finished fifth in CONMEBOL. As fifth-place finishers, they played New Zealand in a fixture with the winner advancing to the World Cup. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate and qualified for their fifth World Cup in their country’s history. A popular dark horse to advance far in the tournament, Peru is led by their lethal attack which scored the third most goals in CONMEBOL qualifying.
Leading that attack for Peru is their star forward, Paolo Guerrero, who scored five goals for Peru throughout qualification. However, up until recently, Guerrero was not expected to be allowed to play at the World Cup. He tested positive for cocaine and was issued a twelve-month doping ban. Guerrero claimed that this positive test occurred from contaminated tea that he drank. And while this was proven to be the case, the World Anti-Doping Agency still found fault with Guerrero and banned him. However, after multiple appeals including support from the other captains in Group C, Guerrero was finally cleared to play and will be leading the lines for Peru.
Manager: Åge Hareide
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Frederik Ronow (Brondby).
Defenders: Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Jens Stryger Larsen (Udinese), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich)
Midfielders: William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna)
Strikers: Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Martin Braithwaite (Bordeaux), Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax)
FIFA Ranking: 12
Odds to win: 100/1
After not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Denmark are back in the World Cup for the fifth time in their history. In the first round of UEFA qualifying, they finished second in Group E, five points behind Poland. They then advanced to the playoff round where they faced the Republic of Ireland. After drawing 0-0 in the first leg, they dominated the second leg 5-1, behind a hattrick from Christian Eriksen and guaranteed their place in the World Cup.
Without a doubt, the key to Denmark’s success is Christian Eriksen. He scored 11 times in 12 matches during qualification for Denmark, not including his hattrick against Ireland. However, it is not just his goal scoring that distinguishes him from his peers. He is also a great creative presence going forward and has an uncanny ability to always pick out the right pass and create chances out of nothing. In short, Denmark’s attack is its most lethal when it flows through him. Another thing that Eriksen does incredibly well that is often overlooked is his work rate. For an attacking midfielder, he has an incredibly strong work rate and is constantly pressing the opposition in order to win the ball back.
Denmark’s notable exclusions
Another noteworthy thing surrounding Denmark has to do some of the players that did not make the final squad. Andreas Bjelland, a starter at center-back throughout qualification, was snubbed by the manager. Although he did get injured towards the end of the season, he played great alongside his defensive partner, Simon Kjaer throughout qualification and his exclusion is certainly surprising.
Another player who certainly could have contributed to Denmark’s World cup campaign is Nicholas Bendtner. He is great both playing in the air and holding up play with his back to goal. Both of these are qualities that no one else on the Danish squad fully possesses so Bendtner certainly would have added a new dynamic going forward.
Finally, Daniel Wass, a player who finished tied for fifth in assists in La Liga, is not on the squad. He is arguably the most egregious of the three snubs. He is easily one of Denmark’s most talented players. However, it is no secret that he does not get along with the manager. Thus Åge Hareide may have wanted to avoid a potential disruption to the dressing room in order to preserve team chemistry.
Although it will certainly not be easy, France will top this group. However, second and third place are a huge toss-up. Both Peru and Denmark have the quality to make surprise runs deep into the knockout stages and are rather unlucky to have been drawn in the same group. Nevertheless, expect Christian Eriksen to have a magnificent performance in Denmark’s opening match against Peru. This will be the deciding factor as Denmark finishes second and Peru finishes third. Finally, Australia will prove to be overmatched throughout group play and finish with only one point.