This summer marks the 20th anniversary of France’s first and, to date, only World Cup triumph. A quarter-final exit was about par for the course last time out in Brazil, but the current Les Bleus side will be aiming to go all the way to the title in Russia this summer.
In terms of pure talent, no one else in the tournament can match what Didier Deschamps has at his disposal. Football is not played on paper, however, and the same argument was used by some before the European Championship two years ago.
France also had the added bonus of hosting that competition, but they were not always convincing in their run to the final and then failed to get the job done against underdogs Portugal, who ran out 1-0 winners in extra time. The side will certainly be the subject of lots of betting in the week leading up to the competition.
Many of the players involved in Euro 2016 now have another two seasons of experience under their belts, while the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe and Samuel Umtiti have emerged since then (the latter was included in the squad but had not won a single international cap before the tournament).
Antoine Griezmann is among the world’s best attackers and N’Golo Kante is the planet’s foremost ball-winning midfielder, while Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane, Benjamin Mendy and Corentin Tolisso – as well as the aforementioned Dembele, Mbappe and Umtiti – are also fine players with plenty to offer.
There is thus no doubt that France belong among the favourites to win the competition, but it is difficult to shake the suspicion that this is a team which amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Deschamps has yet to form a coherent collective, and that may ultimately prove costly in a heavyweight clash with opposition such as Germany, Spain or Brazil in the latter rounds. With that in mind, consider taking up Karamba’s price of 4/1 on France suffering elimination at the semi-final stage.
Peru have not participated in a World Cup since 1982, so their qualification was celebrated wildly on the streets of Lima and beyond. Los Incas had shown steady signs of progress in recent years, reaching the semi-finals of the 2015 Copa America and the last eight of a special Centenario edition 12 months later, but they looked to be in trouble midway through World Cup qualifying.
A streak of good fortune helped them turn things around, though, with Bolivia’s 2-0 win against Peru turned into a 3-0 defeat after the former were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player as a second-half substitute. Ricardo Gareca’s charges then went on to collect 18 points from the next 30 on offer, advancing to an inter-confederation play-off which brought a 2-0 aggregate triumph over New Zealand.
Peru have been in excellent form since qualification was secured, beating Croatia, Iceland, Scotland and Saudi Arabia in warm-up friendlies. Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan are both dangerous attackers who will be supported by the inventive Edison Flores, and the confidence surging through the camp could help them make it into the round of 16 – Sportnation offer 7/4 on that eventuality.
Denmark are regarded as second favourites to win Group C, and there are certainly reasons to back them to advance alongside France. Star man Christian Eriksen is the side’s creative fulcrum and will be relied upon to make things happen in the final third, but it is unclear whether Age Hareide’s side have enough attacking quality to win games if the Tottenham schemer is marked out of a match.
The Danes only conceded eight goals in qualifying and could be tough to break down, although it is worth noting that they were drawn in a relatively kind group alongside Poland, Romania, Montenegro, Armenia and Kazakhstan. It could therefore be worth putting some money on a group stage exit for Denmark, available at 11/10 (888sport).
Australia are the outsiders in Group C, but they should not be completely ruled out of the reckoning. Ange Postecoglou resigned as manager after guiding the Socceroos through qualification, with Bert van Marwijk – who took the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010 – the man who will lead the five-time qualifiers in Russia.
Australia possess a strong team spirit and should be well organised without the ball, but they probably lack the attacking prowess to make it beyond the group stage. A solitary win may be the best they can hope for, with top football betting sites offering odds of 15/4 on Van Marwijk’s men collecting three points from their first-round games.