We buy sports magazines, Panini stickers, and posters for our walls when the World Cup is on the horizon. Group C is the one that is possibly going to sell magazines like the National Enquirer and keep TMZ busy this summer. Let’s look at the group headlined by one of the tournament favorites who are also our best bet for off-field drama.
Fifa ranking 7
Depth is the key word for France ahead of the World Cup. Top to bottom, the squad is filled with talent that should see an improvement on a quarterfinal finish in 2014 when they lost to eventual winners Germany. While the World Cup is not a tournament where we expect coaches to rotate players much, they do have strong options in every position should someone need to be replaced due to fatigue, knock or suspension. A strong team can be named just from players the French have left at home.
France are a team notorious for off-field problems. Players have been sent home in the past, and the team seems to fall short of expectations due to inconsistency or some type of turmoil. Karim Benzema is still in the maison de chien because of previous issues, and Adrien Rabiot has caused several headlines by refusing to join the reserves this time around.
Manager Didier Deschamps cannot afford any discord among the 23 who have been called up to represent Les Bleu in Russia , so he will be working overtime to create a good atmosphere. Distractions will be aplenty though. Journalists will surely have constant questions about the futures of Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, so Deschamps will be challenged to guard his players from them.
French players will feature on a vast number of fantasy teams, and Kylian Mbappe (whose picture tops this article) is at the top of my watchlist. Back-to-back French League titles with Monaco and PSG show that he is a winner. If France are to go all the way, then the youngster will be a big part of the success along with Griezmann. I’m not a Hugo Lloris fan, but he does have a superb central defensive pair in front of him with Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane.
Fifa Ranking 12
After missing the last World Cup, Denmark is back on the big stage and will be expecting to get out the group. They had to get past Ireland in the playoffs, but as the ranking suggests, this is a team with some quality. The opening game against Peru will be pivotal, six points in the bag before facing France in the final group game will ease the minds of supporters.
There’s not much drama surrounding this team, but manager Age Hareide will want to meet expectations or risk being run back to Norway. The main debate will be who starts up front. Kasper Dolberg is the player with the quality, but he faces competition from the hard working Andreas Cornelius and, dare I say, Nicklas Bendtner.
The Danes have a very strong spine, and this is where I’d look to draft players for my fantasy team. Kasper Schmeichel is a Premier League winning goalkeeper with whom many of our readers will be familiar. The shield in front of him should include Simon Kjaer of Sevilla and Andreas Christensen of Chelsea.
The star of the show is in midfield: Christian Eriksen. Manager Hareide does not hide that the team is built around the Tottenham play-maker. Opponents will however, set up to stop the man who had an amazing eleven goals during qualifying. This leads me to suggest an under the radar player for your fantasy squads if Eriksen is priced too high, look no further than Pione Sisto who had a wonderful season at Celta Vigo in La Liga. His nine assists placed him in the top five in the category, ahead of more familiar names like Isco and Kroos.
Fifa ranking 11
Since the 1982 team led by star Teo Cubillas, the Peruvians have had to sit and watch from home as their South American counterparts played on the world stage. Qualifying for 2018 was not easy: they had to face New Zealand in a playoff.
But after waiting 36 years, we may be surprised by this team currently ranked 11th by FIFA. Many are predicting that a positive result in the opener could see the team into the round of 16. Peru were third highest scorers in South American qualifying behind Brazil and Uruguay, so expect attacking play. The team is managed by Argentine Ricardo Gareca. I watched the New Zealand games, and he had them passing the ball well.
All the drama surrounding this team involves suspended captain Paolo Guerrero who failed a drugs test and has been banned. The captains of the group opponents have made an appeal on his behalf, but after Guerrero meet FIFA president Gianni Infantino in person this week, the ban remains and clemency appears unlikely. Now the rest of the squad need to step up.
Andre Carrillo will be a player fantasy managers will want to keep an eye on because his speed can get him in behind defenses. Others to look out for are Edison Flores and Christian Cueva in the middle of the park; expect them to chip in some goals.
Fifa Ranking 40
The boys from down under could not make it out the group stage in 2014, but they are hoping to improve this time around. This is the fourth straight qualification for the Aussies, and it was difficult just to get here. A playoff against Honduras was necessary, as they did not successfully handle Asian/Oceania qualifying.
Australia lead us off in the drama headlines, Ange Postecoglou got the team into the World Cup, but he will not be the man on the sidelines on June 16 against the French. Bert Van Marwijk will be the man patrolling the area in front the bench as his predecessor left just a week after the playoff win against the Hondurans.
The team includes familiar names who can be considered for our fantasy lineups: Mathew Ryan of Brighton will be in goal and provides a solid option at the back. Tomi Juric is one to watch up front, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how one of my old New York Red Bulls favorites Tim Cahill does.
My expected survivors for this group are France and Denmark. However, if Guerrero is somehow allowed a last minute reprieve, then I believe he will be enough to edge Peru into second place. Therefore, the opening match between Peru and Denmark (12th vs 11th with 11’s captain likely banned) is the game to watch in this group. I’m also very excited to see if Mbappe can combine with Griezmann the way he does with Neymar. The pace of these two will scare teams.
What do you think will happen in Group C? How many off-the-field stories will these teams generate? Which players in this group are on your fantasy watch-list? Please tell us in the comments below!