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Can Australia Cause an Early Shock against France?

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June 14, 2018

France v Australia, Saturday 16th June, 11:00

There are few teams who can boast of the attacking riches at France’s disposal this summer. In fact, one could argue that for sheer strength in depth throughout the squad, no other country can match them. Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti are two of the best centre-backs in Europe at the moment and can boast of speed, sense and strength as a unit. N’Golo Kante is a pick-pocket extraordinaire in diminutive footballing form and Paul Pogba, whilst mercurial, possesses all that’s required to be one of the best of his generation. Ahead of them, the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele need little introduction.

The fact that they are not in top three favourites to win this World Cup must be largely down to their manager, Didier Deschamps. A former winner as a player, he hasn’t proven himself to be as adept at the management game and many in France wish it was his old teammate, Zinedine Zidane, who was taking charge. Speaking of managerial issues, Australia haven’t been immune to them. Their former coach left following qualification and the man who took his place, Bert van Marwijk, will himself be replaced following the tournament by Graham Arnold. It doesn’t rain but it pours. Still, at least the Socceroos can call on Tim Cahill, eh?

That’s slightly snide as Cahill has been a talisman for them in the past, even if his legs are largely gone, and relishes the opportunity of playing on the biggest stage of all. The team is not without talent; Aaron Mooy, for example, is a very classy midfielder but they are functionary without being too flashy. That’s not a bad trait to have in tournament competition – just ask Greece circa 2004 – but against France, it probably won’t be enough. There is a chance, of course, that they could catch France cold but the bookmakers don’t seem to think this likely. Les Blues are just about unbackable so short is the price but if you fancy a frivolous fiver, Bet365 have the draw at 23/4.

Denmark and Peru Set for First Game Stalemate

Peru v Denmark, Saturday 16th June, 17:00

What have a centuries-old Peruvian mummy, cocaine and Peru captain, Paolo Guerrero, got in common? On the face of it, you wouldn’t think all that much but for a while there, it seemed as if Guerrero would not lead his country to Russia as a result of testing positive for cocaine. He argued that the trace amounts detected were as a result of a hot beverage he drank in a Peruvian hotel which had been prepared with cocoa leaves. The mummy was figuratively raised from the dead to back his assertion that cocoa leaves and their usage was an ancient tradition, and was in no way connected to taking cocaine, per se. Either way, WADA eventually relented and he can now take his place at the top of the line as he leads Peru out at Saransk.

Looking across to his opponents, he will see the Denmark captain, Simon Kjaer, who, along with the remaining captains from Group C, openly petitioned for Guerrero’s ban to be lifted. Niceties will surely be put aside once play commences but it was a heartening gesture by all concerned and helped remind us that the Corinthian Spirit still has some life left in it. It’s possible that this game might be largely overlooked by casual fans but with Peru ranked 11th in the world against a Christian Eriksen-inspired Denmark currently ranked at 12th, this match could be a real humdinger.

Denmark qualified for the World Cup via a play-off against the Republic of Ireland. Following a nil-nil draw, that man Eriksen went to work on the Irish and put them on the end of a 5-1 drubbing. Since then, and most recently, they enjoyed a solid 2-0 win over Mexico. Peru, for their part, have taken notable scalps in friendlies against Croatia and Iceland and haven’t suffered any kind of defeat since the tail end of 2016. It’s a tight one to call but if it looks as if Peru might just get the win on the back of the form, the market makes Denmark slight favourites.

About the author

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

Sports Journalist

Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.