Best finish: Champions 1998
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Star player: Antoine Griezmann
France have an incredible pool of talent for this World Cup. National team coach Didier Deschamps in fact is spoiled for choice. The team have simply grown from strength to strength under Deschamps reign. In July 2012, Deschamps took over as national team coach and since than France have been on the rise and reached the final of Euro 2016 losing against Portugal.
Deschamps has an attacking mindset but, despite the talent that the team have, they don’t control or dominate the way Germany and Brazil do. However, the side are very effective on the counter-attack and that is how they are likely to line up, with pacy wingers in an expected 4-3-3 formation. They have a quality leader in Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to captain France in Russia.
Youngsters to watchout for are Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. Mbappe will be a key player for France and Dembele can be very effective whenever he gets and opportunity in this strong line-up.
The ace striker Antoine Griezmann is the man to watch out for as he has finished as the top goal scorer in Euro 2018 and has clearly hit a purple patch right in time for the World Cup.
Griezmann has ample support upfront — Paris St-Germain forward Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Lemar.
The midfield will be patrolled by Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot and N’Golo Kante. In all probability in the defence, Laurent Koscielny should start alongside Rafael Verane. With Benjamin Mendy struggling with injury, PSG’s Layvin Kurzawa is likely to start at left back. Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti could also start at right back.
France were one of the four European teams that participated at the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and have appeared in 14 Fifa World Cups. The French team won their 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. They have also finished in the third spot in 1958 and 1986 and in fourth place in 1982.
Best finish: Round of 16 in 2006
Manager: Bert van Marwijk
Star player: Mile Jedinak
The Socceroos made it to the 2018 World Cup with a bit of a struggle. They finished the Asian qualifiers third behind Japan and Saudi Arabia and so had to fight it out in two more rounds to reach Russia.
In the continental play-off Ange Postecoglou’s men managed to scrape past Syria with an extra-time winner by their veteran star Tim Cahill.
Then against Concacaf representatives Honduras they won 3-1 at home after a 0-0 draw away, and qualified for the World Cup for the fifth time.
However, immediately after the match against Honduras, coach Postecoglou quit citing the toll the qualifying campaign had taken on him. Postecoglou was appointed Australia manager back in 2013, and also led the Socceroos to the 2014 World Cup. The team failed to impress at the tournament, but the next year won the Asian Cup.
Dutchman Bert van Marwijk is their new head coach since January.
Midfielder Mile Jedinak, who scored a match-winning hat-trick in the second leg against the Hondurans, is the man to watch out for. The Australian captain can prove very effective upfront. The 33-year-old has spent most of his career playing in English Premier League and is currently with Aston Villa.
Cahill’s experience is also going to play a huge part if Australia are to progress in the tournament. The 38-year-old had started as a full-back and has spent eight years with them. He recently moved from Australia’s Melbourne to former club Millwall in England’s Championship. He is Australia’s all-time top scorer with 50 goals, and has made more than 100 appearances for the Socceroos. His best in the run up to the World Cup same when he pumped in a double in the crucial return match against Syria. This will be Cahill’s fourth World Cup appearance and he will be keen to make his presence felt.
Other well-known names in the list include that of goalkeeper Mathew Ryan who plays for Brighton, 27-year-old Aaron Mooy of Huddersfield Town and Massimo Luongo who is a part of English Championship club Queens Park Rangers.
Australia first figured in the World Cup way back in 1974 and all members of the squad were based in Australia. They lost all their contests in their debut. The Socceroos’ next World Cup appearance was at Germany in 2006 under Dutch head coach Guus Hiddink. They made it to the round of 16 beating Japan 3-1, drawing with Croatia and losing to Brazil. In the round of 16, Hiddink’s team competed well against Italy before going down to a controversial penalty that Francesco Totti converted late in the injury time. In the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 they failed to advance beyond the group stage.
Best finish: Quarter-finals in 1970
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Star player: Jefferson Farfan
After a gap of 36 years, Peru ares back in the World Cup with a young brigade. However, their first qualification since 1982 had its share of controversies. In the last match of the qualification stage, Peru drew with Colombia and that was the best possible result both teams could benefit from.
While Colombia qualified directly, Peru went on to the play-offs. It was later found that players had openly discussed the outcome on the pitch but surprisingly neither were penalised by Fifa.
The team’s top scorer, Jose Paolo Guerrero, tested positive for cocaine and was slapped with a six-month ban. Guerrero will still be eligible to play in Russia after a protracted appeal process with CAS.
Before the home play-off leg against New Zealand, Peruvian fans tried to unsettle their opponents by setting off fireworks in front of the team hotel. Peru secured a 2-0 second-leg victory after a 0-0 draw in New Zealand and sealed their place at the World Cup.
Peru rely a lot of short passes and possession as it has helped them to get some stunning results. They have a very confident goalkeeper in Pedro Gallese and a skilful leader in Alberto Rodríguez marshaling the defence. The supply job will be in the hands of the robust Yoshimar Yotun. Jefferson Farfan and Paolo Guerrero will be up front. The wing-backs Aldo Corzo and Miguel Trauco will also have a key role to play if Peru has to make any progress at the World Cup. Also keep an eye on the very talented Christian Cueva.
Keep an eye on Farfan, who currently plays for Lokomotiv Moscow. It was his goal against New Zealand that helped Peru qualify.
Coach Ricardo Gareca is also a shrewd tactician and the man behind Peru’s achievements in the recent time. Prior to managing Peru, Gareca worked mostly in Argentina, where he won three Primera Division titles with Velez Sarsfield. In Peru he where he won the title with Universitario.
Peru featured at three World Cups in the 1970s and 1980s, and in each of those tournaments Peru’s greatest ever player, Teofilo Cubillas, played the central role. The twice made it to the knockout stages in 1970 and 1978. In 1970, Peru lost 4-2 to Brazil in the quarter-finals. Cubillas scored five goals in the tournament and was the third top scorer and best young player.
Eight years later, Cubillas scored another five goals in Argentina but Peru lost all three games with an aggregate score of 10-0.
Best finish: Quarter-finals in 1998, 2002
Manager: Age Hareide
Star player: Christian Eriksen
Denmark will be heavily relying on their biggest star Christian Eriksen for their success in this World Cup. The Tottenham player has hammered in 11 goals in qualifying. Only prolific Pole Robert Lewandowski, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku scored more goals than Eriksen.
Eriksen was with Ajax, where he won three Eredivisie titles before, moving to Tottenham where he has scored some stunning goals.
Denmark made it to the World Cup via the European play-offs and had finished second in their group behind Poland. The Danes did thrash the Poles 4-0 at home but still ended up five points behind their group rivals.
Denmark then faced Ireland at home in the first leg but that contest ended in a stalemate 0-0. In the return leg in Dublin, Denmark trailed by a goal just six minutes into play but Eriksen then stole the show with a hat-trick and the Danes eventually won the contest 5-1.
Denmark’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is another key player. Son of the famous Manchester United goalkeeper Peter, Kasper won the Premier League title with club team Leicester City during their memorable season in 2015-16.
Nicklas Bendtner is another player to watch out for. The former Arsenal forward was the most promising player a decade ago. Now with Norway’s Rosenborg, Bendtner has been in good form and hence recalled for the national team.
With Norwegian Age Hareide, 64, as coach, Dane will be hoping the can make the most of this opportunity. In his home country, Hareide won the title once and the Norwegian Cup twice, while in Sweden he won the title with Helsingborgs and Malmo. He added to those accolades in Denmark, where he won the Superliga with Brondby. Hareide was appointed manager of Denmark in December 2015, immediately after the team had lost to Sweden in the play-offs for a place at Euro 2016 in France.
Denmark have qualified for the World Cup finals four times previously, the first of which was in 1986. Captained by Morten Olsen Denmark shocked West Germany, Uruguay, Scotland and shocked Uruguay 6-1. They, however, crashed out of the round of 16, though after losing to Spain 5-1. The next time Denmark qualified was in 1998 and team made it into the knockout stage. Then four years later in South Korea and Japan, Denmark made it to the last-16 stage once again before being stopped by England 3-0.