2018 World Cup, Group C Preview: Favourites France expected to dominate

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 09 June 2018, 09:38

Group C features one of the favourites to lift the World Cup trophy, France, alongside Australia, Peru and Denmark.

We take a look at the four managers below:

  • Didier Deschamps (France)
  • Bert van Marwijk (Australia)
  • Ricardo Gareca (Peru)
  • Age Hareide (Denmark)

France Manager: Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps

French disunity was rife in 2010, when Raymond Domenech’s apparent incompetence lost him the respect of a star-studded squad, culminating in a Group Stage exit.

The same fate this year though is almost unthinkable: after two years of stabilization under Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps took over and has shown the bravery to drop big name underperformers, as Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Adrian Rabiot know to their cost.

Having been a key ‘water-carrier’ in France’s 1998 World Cup winning side, Deschamps values players in whom he sees something of his old self. It would be of little surprise therefore, if the midfield contains two powerful lung-busters in Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante, who will do vital ground-covering when attacking full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy push forward.

Deschamps’ methods helped Les Bleus to the final of Euro 2016, where centre-back Samuel Umtiti starred, but there are still question marks about his conservatism. The 49-year-old frequently favours Olivier Giroud up top, partly because of his work rate and contributions when defending set pieces.

While Giroud has a respectable goalscoring record, sections of fans want Deschamps to discard the target man in favour of a quicker, more exciting front trio of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. Where the Bayonne-born boss is concerned however, aesthetics come second to results.

Interesting fact: Deschamps is in a three-man group of captains in the history of football who have won the Champions League, the World Cup and the European Championship. This tournament could define whether his managerial career will be remembered with equal prestige.

Prediction: semi-final exit

Australia Manager: Bert Van Marwijk

Bert Van Marwijk

Bert Van Marwijk will not be found wanting for managerial pedigree at this World Cup. Having taken Holland to the 2010 Final, losing 1-0 to Spain in extra-time, he also won the UEFA Cup with Feyenord back in 2001-02.

Those were two very respectable achievements, but they were accomplished with his own people and during four-year periods in charge. Here, the situation is rather different. Not only does Van Marwijk have no prior connection to Australia, his stint will be as short as five months: after replacing the more popular Ange Postecoglou in January, he himself will be replaced post-Russia by Graham Arnold. Aussies aren’t looking to identify with the man in charge and while that won’t be a problem if results start well, one does wonder about whether unity could be found in adversity.

One galvanizing figurehead could be national treasure Tim Cahill, who takes part in the fourth World Cup of his career aged 38, this time with the role of super-sub. More prominent performers will be attacking midfielder Tom Rogic and deep-lying playmaker Aaron Mooy, who have impressed for Celtic and Huddersfield respectively, in a midfield that pressed fearlessly under Postecoglu.

Since the manager change though, the emphasis has shifted to compact organization and swift transitions. The focal point of any attacks will be Tomi Juric, who is an honest team player but not necessarily a reliable goalscorer.

For Australia to have a positive tournament, either Juric must find his shooting boots, or a suspect defence must improve. Van Marwijk could be the man to make the team stronger in both boxes, but a solid start is required to generate a positive vibe.

Interesting fact: Van Marwijk is the father-in-law of Mark Van Bommel; the two had a good relationship during the latter’s playing career and will be coaching together at this World Cup.

Prediction: Group stage exit

Peru Manager: Ricardo Gareca

Ricardo Gareca

Mention Peru to your standard football fan and they are most likely to remember Nolberto Solano, a Newcastle United technician from the early noughties. At a push, older generations might recall the 1970s era when their flowing football was admired across the globe. La Blanquirroja (The White and Red) haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1982 though and with the team struggling to make its mark on the big stage, national belief had waned.

Until now. The man tasked with nurturing a new golden generation is Ricardo Gareca and the signs are that he is very much up to the job. The 60-year-old is a man of integrity and patience, qualities which have helped him both handle a reactionary Peruvian media and tame the more enigmatic performers. For example, Christian Cueva has had temperamental issues in club football but is calmer in Gareca’s presence, meaning his creative dribbling comes to the fore.

Talismanic striker Paolo Guerrero is once again eligible to play in the World Cup after his doping ban was temporarily lifted. Raul Ruidiaz, a regular goalscorer in Mexico, could start up top while Alberto Rodriguez, a no-nonsense but unusually fit centre-back at 34, inherits the armband.

Leadership won’t be in short supply. Gareca has won five league titles as a manager in club football and now he has given Peru a team to believe in for the first time in nearly four decades.

Interesting fact: Ironically, ex-forward Gareca scored a goal that catalysed Peru’s failure to qualify for the 1986 World Cup while playing for Argentina. We reckon he’ll inspire a history-making campaign here that might just help the natives come to forgive him.

Prediction: Quarter-finals

Denmark Manager - Age Hareide

Age Hareide

Cultivating a strong team ethic is a major priority for Age Hareide. To do so, the Denmark manager typically maintains a consistent starting eleven, even when bigger names become available.

Versatile midfielder Daniel Wass, linked with a glamorous move away from Celta Vigo, looks unlikely to find a prominent international role because Hareide wants to reward positional rivals such as Thomas Delaney for impressive form during qualifying.

Similarly, Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen is on paper a better centre-back than Brentford’s Andreas Bjelland, but the latter’s left-footed tendency and 14 extra caps makes him the preferred left-sided centre-back partner for stalwart Simon Kjaer.

It took Hareide, who won the 2014 Allsvenkan title with Malmo FF, a few games to perfect the Danish strategy. He oversaw defeats to Poland and Montenegro early in qualifying, when the team struggled with the high-pressing, fast-paced 3-5-2 he introduced, but the 64-year-old promptly tweaked the system to suit.

The more controlled 4-2-3-1 has since proved more effective, chiefly in getting the best out of creative maestro Christian Eriksen, who has more tactical freedom than under Morten Olson.

Hareide has a warm and friendly relationship with Eriksen and other trusty performers, but he also wastes little time with those who break the code of conduct. Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojberg expressed discontent at being substituted in a game in October 2016 and hasn’t kicked a single international ball since. While Hareide is manager, no one player will be bigger than the team.

Interesting fact: When Hareide played for Norwich in the 1980s, he was a teammate of Martin O’Neill, who became manager of the Ireland side Denmark thrashed 5-1 in the play-offs to qualify. Sorry, old chum!

Prediction: Group Stage exit (only just missing out on the last-16)

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