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World Cup group previews
Miami Herald soccer writer Michelle Kaufman breaks down each group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and selects her top two teams that will advance out of the group stage.
The 2018 World Cup opens in less than a month, on June 14, in Moscow. Here is what we can expect from Group C.
Australia: Expectations are low for the Socceroos, who needed playoffs against Syria and Honduras to get into the World Cup. The key player is Aaron Mooy, a midfielder with Huddersfield Town in the English Premier League who could wind up on a bigger club with a good performance. Longtime coach Ange Postecoglou resigned in November 2017, citing burnout, and Bert von Marwijk took over.
Denmark: The Danes enter on a high after stunning group-winner Poland 4-0 in qualifying and beating Ireland 5-1 in a playoff. This is a tall team, with key players 6-3 and 6-4. The attack centers on Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, who scored 11 goals in qualifying, including a hat trick against Ireland.
France: Les Bleus have plenty of talent, led by Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (PSG) and Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid). The key will be whether the French can stay focused and avoid the distractions and in-fighting that have plagued their teams in recent years. Assuming they win the group, they would have a tough Round of 16 matchup against the winner of the Argentina-Croatia-Iceland-Nigeria group.
Peru: One of the feel-good teams of this World Cup, Peru is back after a 36-year absence, longest drought of all 32 teams. Midway through qualifying, they were in eighth place of 10 teams, but they finished strong, beat New Zealand in a playoff and are undefeated the past 12 games. Paolo Guerrero was suspended for doping, but won a reprieve after a Swiss Tribunal agreed to temporarily lift a 14-month suspension.
Prediction: France wins the group, and Peru’s unlikely run continues.