For the true casual fan....Quick-twitch bits and opinions on the 32 teams, if you accidentally stumble upon soccer while watching TV this month! GROUP C edition. ---->
GROUP C: France does laps around this group, but two teams advance...sooo, root for one of the other 3!
AUSTRALIA: The Aussies! The Socceroos!!! Australia went to their first World Cup in 1974, then had to wait 32 years for another shot when they made it to the knockout stage in 2006. This year will be their 4th straight Cup campaign, and the race for Runner-Up in Group C is wide open! For some reason, the average person can't help but feel something positive for Australia. It's kangaroos and koalas and the accents and Paul Hogan and allllll the odd stereotypes we may foster as truths that push our chips into their circle. Who ever had beef with Australia? Exactly. Australia had to win a 2-match playoff with Honduras just to make the tourney, so they've been on the grind, but now they're here. Tim Cahill is 38 and synonymous with Aussie soccer. If the squad advances to the knockout stage and he plays in each game, he'll match the country's record for most appearances on the national team at 109(Mark Schwarzer). Cahill will lead the team in scoring if he starts all the games. Team captain Mile Jedinak plays for ratty Aston Villa, but he was nothing but sweet when he aced a hat trick in the Honduras playoff match that sent Australia to Russia. They'll get smacked by France, but start flipping coins for points against the other two squads in this group.
PERU: Root for Peru. This is their first World Cup since 1982!!!! They're more depressed about their situation than Minnesota sports fans. But they're back in mix, with a legit opportunity. After knocking out New Zealand in a playoff, the Peruvians are dancing in Moscow. You can read this anywhere, but they need production out of Paolo Guerrero. Weird, he's their best player and best scorer. He also just got out of a 14-month doping ban after a Swiss supreme court put a stop to it, following a positive test for "cocaine metabolites" in late 2017. He's looking to provide more than a "bump" to the offense. Benfica/Watford's Andre Carrillo has a couple goals in 4 appearances so far in 2018 for the national squad. My intel indicates that midfielder Edison Flores has been among their best in qualifying (he plays for a club in Denmark, which is Peru's first opponent in this tournament). This is the team I want to finish 2nd in this group.
DENMARK: Denmark. What the hell is Denmark? We know it's there, somewhere, but what is it? Denmark is a one-trick pony that comes in the form of Christian Eriksen. It's a pretty good trick. The Tottenham stud has double-digit goals in his last 14 games for his country, which is sweet. And he's a bona fide badass for his north London Premier League side. But that's it. Their captain, Simon Kjaer, is a fantastic defender but the remainder of this team is pea soup. They're there, but, ehhhh....I am being incredibly disrespectful to this team, only because they had an odd qualifying campaign. The Danes are well worthy of watching. They have this 24yr old Yussuf Poulsen that could make me eat my words. Midfielder Thomas Delaney is a reliable contributor as well. Throughout qualifying, they played in several different formation concepts and tried many different lineups, which makes me very interested in seeing how they handle their business in Russia.
FRANCE: This is France's tourney to lose. I believe they'll meet Spain in the World Cup Final. It's because Antoine Griezmann scores more when the games matter. It's because Paul Pogba might be the most talented middle man on the planet, and is world-class when he's locked in. It's Ben Mendy. It's N'Golo Kante, it's Matuidi, it's Hugo Lloris in net, the kid Kylian Mbappe....All I'm doing is name dropping a murderer's row of absolute superstars making up this roster(I have more if you want them). Bigtimers playing for giant clubs, that are in the sweet spot of age and experience to run through the competition in Russia. The group stage is that appetizer. If this team isn't playing in the Final, the French fanbase should be pissed off. This squad just missed out on winning the Euro 2016 tourney on their home turf after hitting a wall in the form of Portugal. They're better now than they were then. I believe this team has more talent than the France team that won World Cup 1998. But are they composed enough to realize it? I think they are.
***France smashes Group C. Denmark finishes 2nd, although I'm really hoping Peru does because nobody cares about Denmark.