SWC favourites France in 'easy' Group C

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Kylian Mbappe (Getty Images)
Kylian Mbappe (Getty Images)

Cape Town - A guide through each of the teams following the 2018 Soccer World Cup draw held in Russia.

READ: Big guns avoid each other in SWC draw

GROUP C:

France

A young and vibrant side packed with flair promises to be eye-catching. Recently, France twice took the lead away to World Cup winner Germany and caused the home defense all sorts of problems with the movement and speed of its devastating counter-attacks.

But France is also prone to lapses in concentration, and this needs to be ironed out if France wishes to win the trophy for the second time.

Les Bleus lost the 2006 World Cup final to Italy in a penalty shootout; lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, and could not handle the pressure of being the favorite in the Euro 2016 final at home to Portugal.

It's time for France to add silverware to the growing hype.

Key player: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) — The three-time Champions League-winning center back has the difficult task of marshalling a vulnerable defense.

Coach: Didier Deschamps — Turned France into a highly competitive team but has yet to deliver a trophy. Reaching the World Cup semifinals is the minimum target for the 49-year-old Deschamps, a former midfielder who captained France to victory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

Australia

Qualified for a fourth consecutive World Cup, but had to take the long route to Russia after failing to secure direct entry in Asia because of a slightly inferior goal difference to Saudi Arabia.

The Australians played 22 games in qualifying, including an Asian playoff against Syria and culminating with a playoff win over Honduras. That made them the next-to-last team to clinch a spot at the 2108 edition.

The nucleus of the young squad that went to Brazil four years ago has remained, helping the country win its first Asian Cup title in 2015 and develop an attacking style it touts as the Australian way.

Ange Postecoglou quit as coach a week after Australia secured its place in Russia, and is yet to be replaced.

Key player: Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa) — With much of the attention on 37-year-old Tim Cahill, Jedinak's returned from injury to stabilize the midfield and score a hat-trick against Honduras.

Coach: To be appointed.

Peru

Chile, Ecuador and even Paraguay were considered favorites for South America's fifth spot in the World Cup. In the end, it went to a Peruvian side that conceded only seven goals in eight matches in 2017.

Much of the team's base players are now in Mexican clubs; goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, defender Luis Advincula, midfielder Pedro Aquino and strikers Raul Ruidiaz and Andy Polo.

Key player: Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo) — The 33-year-old captain scored six goals in qualifying, but is now a doubt for Russia while appealing against a FIFA doping ban.

Coach: Ricardo Gareca — The 59-year-old Argentine scored in 1985 a goal that eliminated Peru in South American qualifiers. Since 2015 he has led a much better organized and well-paced Peruvian team to first World Cup participation since 1982.

Denmark

One of the fastest-improving teams in Europe, and a country most will want to avoid coming out of the third-seeded pot.

Denmark hasn't played a major tournament since the 2012 European Championship but is unbeaten in 11 games since back-to-back losses in qualifying against Poland and Montenegro in October 2016.

Two results stand out: A 4-0 win at home to top-seeded Poland in September and the 5-1 victory at Ireland in the playoffs second leg.

In both games, playmaker Christian Eriksen was a standout creating and scoring goals. His form can decide Denmark's fortunes in Russia.

Key player: Eriksen (Tottenham) — Just 18 on his World Cup debut in 2010, Eriksen is in prime form this time round, scoring 11 goals in eight different games during Denmark's unbeaten streak.

Coach: Age Hareide — The 64-year-old Norwegian has spent his entire career in Scandinavia, including a five-year spell leading his home country.

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