FRANCE: France was one of the four European teams that participated at the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and have appeared in 14 FIFA World Cups, tied for the fifth most of any country. The national team is one of eight national teams to have won at least one FIFA World Cup title.
The France team won its first and only World Cup title in 1998.
The tournament was played on home soil and France defeated Brazil 3–0 in the final match.
In 2006, France finished as runners-up losing 5–3 on penalties to Italy, following that infamous Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Metarazzi, that saw France end the match with a man less. The team has also finished in third place on two occasions in
1958 and 1986 and in fourth place once in 1982. The team’s worst result in the competition was a first-round elimination in 2002 and 2010.
In 2002, the team lost to Senegal and departed the tournament without scoring a goal, while in 2010, France suffered defeats to Mexico and South Africa and earned a point from a draw with Uruguay.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: It was not a very smooth ride for France en route to Russia 2018, but they held their own in a tight Group A that had Belarus, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden; with 7 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss; and a decent 18 goals scored.
THEIR CHANCES: For the first time since winning the 1998 trophy, France have a side capable of winning the World Cup again. The experience of loosing the Euros on home soil to Portugal must have taught them a valuable lesson which will definitely benefit them as they gear up to challenge for the top prize in Russia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: In Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba, France have two of the World’s most expensive players. Add Antoine Griezmann, Hugo, Lloris and Laurent Koscienly to the duo, and you see a side capable of taking Gold back to Paris.
KEY MAN: Antoine Griezmann; the Atletico Madrid striker was prolific for France in the Euros as his six goals helped Les Blues reach the finals. He will certainly be leading the line in Russia.
The Australia national football team, has represented Australia at the FIFA World Cup on four occasions: in 1974, 2006, 2010, 2014 and will make their fifth appearance in 2018 World Cup. There best performance has been in the 2006 edition, where they got to the round of 16 but couldn’t drag their game against Italy to extra time as they succumbed to a 95th minute penalty by Francesco Totti, despite playing the majority of the second half with a man advantage. Till date, Australia has won only two World Cup matches; one was in 2006 and the other was in 2010.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: The Socceroos failed to qualify automatically from Group B during the fourth round of the AFC qualifiers. They finished third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, in a Group that equally had United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand, as they won five and lost one of their ten games. However Australia stepped one foot in Russia after defeating Syria (who came third in Group A) 3-2 on aggregate, over two legs. The victory over Syria ensured that the Socceroos qualified for an inter-confederation playoff. The fifth-placed team from AFC was drawn against the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF, with the AFC team hosting the second leg. It was between Australia and Honduras. The Socceroos won 3-1 on aggregate over the two legs; having held Honduras to a goalless draw in the first leg. With that victory, the Socceroos booked their qualification into the World Cup finals.
THEIR CHANCES: Their tough route to Russia must have tested their strength and character, but they will definitely be faced with the tougher task of beating stronger oppositions in Russia. The Socceroos may not do as well as they did in 2006, but you can trust them to put up a good fight in Russia.
It’s a difficult group. I doubt if Australia would make it to the second round.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak, Tom Rogic.
KEY PLAYER: Tim Cahill. Who else is better equipped to lead the Socceroos in Russia than the 38-years old striker. The man with over hundred caps and fifty goals for his country, scored eleven times during the qualifiers. You can bank on the Melbourne City striker to deliver the goods in Russia.
Peru has participated in the World Cup during the first World Cup in 1930 and in every tournament since 1958. Peru has reached the finals five times: in 1930, 1970, 1978, 1982, and 2018. Their best outing was in the 1970 finals in Mexico where they were knocked out in the quarter finals.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: After finishing fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying, Peru reached the 2018 finals by defeating New Zealand in an intercontinental play-off that ended 2-0 on aggregate. The Incas scored 27 and conceded 26 goals during the qualifiers. The goalless draw in Argentina on October 5th and that remarkable 2-1 win in Quito, Ecuador on September 5th salvaged what was a not-so-good CONMEBOL qualification for Peru.
THEIR CHANCES: It is not a fluke that Peru are presently 10th (as at October 16th, 2017) in the FIFA rankings. They may have qualified for the World Cup by virtue of the playoffs, but you can bet on them to get beyond the second round.
STARS TO WATCH: Edison Flores, Paolo Guerrero, Christian Cueva, Jefferson Farfan.
KEY MAN: Edison Michael Flores. 23 years Old Edison may not be a household name compared to his illustrious compatriot Paolo Guerrero, but the AaB of Denmark striker whose 5 goals during the qualifiers helped Peru to reach the finals, is at the right age to take the world by storm. World, beware of Edison in Russia!
Denmark first featured in the World Cup finals in 1986. They will be making their fifth appearance in Russia next summer; having equally appeared in 1998, 2002 and 2010. That 4-1 thrashing of Nigeria in the second round of the France ’98 finals has been Denmark’s best World Cup performance yet. It was also in the same year that the Danes got to quarter finals for the first time in their history. However, it was only in the finals of 2010 that Denmark failed to get beyond the group stage.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Denmark has to pass through the proverbial “eye of the needle” to qualify for the finals. A 5-1 aggregate win in the playoffs against Republic Ireland ensured their qualification after falling to usurp Poland who won Group D of the UEFA qualification round. Denmark though finished the group ahead Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. They won 6 of their 10 games, two draws and two losses; and scored 20 goals in the process.
THEIR CHANCES: The Danes oozed class in most of their qualifying games, and are as effective in attack as they were in defence. En route to Russia, Denmark conceded a total of 9 goals in 12 games; and with a disciplined defence, teams will definitely not relish coming up against them in Russia.
They can get beyond the group stage.
STARS TO WATCH: Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen, Andreas Corneli, Kasper Schmeichel.
KEY PLAYER: Christian Eriksen; Who else than the Spurs hitman who almost single-handedly booked qualification for the Red-White with that sublime hat trick against Northern Ireland in the playoffs. He will be that important for them in Russia.