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World Cup Group C: France poised to take honours: Denmark to advance

Tuesday 26th June 2018

The opening two matchdays of Group C went as expected. France won both games; Denmark won then drew; Australia lost then drew. Peru has been sent packing. 

France and Denmark collide this afternoon. Les Bleus have the top spot in sight after already securing a last 16 place. Danish Dynamite's second position is not so certain. Defeat coupled with victory for Australia can turn things around.  

In the last seven contests between the two nations, France have six wins. In two previous World Cup encounters, Denmark and Les Bleus came away with three points apiece.  

They will meet for the 14th time at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for 15:00 BST.

Denmark

FIFA Ranking: 12th

The Danes opened their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Peru. Yussuf Poulsen scored the 59th-minute winner. Five days later, Cristian Eriksen struck early against Austrailia. The Scandinavians couldn't hold on, though, eventually drawing 1-1.  

Denmark will be without a key player against France. Poulsen is suspended due to picking up two yellow cards. Martin Braithwaite is expected to deputise on the right wing. Veteran William Kvist, meanwhile, remains sidelined after picking up a knock in the first game.      

Manager Age Hareide deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation, changing to a Marcelo Bielsa-like 3-3-1-3 when in possession. 

Kasper Schmeichel delivered a sensational performance against Peru. He produced six saves and 11 successful long balls. Considering France's deadly attack, Schmeichel's responsibility will increase. In front of him, Henrik Dalsgaard, Simon Kjaer and young Andreas Christensen have all proven decent at linking defence to midfield. Each possesses a dynamic passing ability.  

One area the Danes must address is right-back. Jens Larsen fails to provide the necessary width. He also passes backwards and sideways too much. 

Defensive midfielders Lasse Schone and Thomas Delaney like the ball at feet. Both often look for Eriksen as soon as he drops deeper. Denmark's creator-in-chief usually occupies the roaming number ten role. Not content to only fashion chances, Eriksen hits screamers, too. He's scored 17 times in his last 23 international appearances. 

Pione Sisto is adept at taking on defenders. He also creates shooting space for Nicolai Jorgensen, a striker with question marks against him due to poor finishing and awareness. 

Hareide's men have shown real energy and endeavour during their first two games. They now require both more than ever. Danish Dynamite desperately seek a point in order to make the last 16. A loss gifts their fate to Australia. 

France

FIFA Ranking: 7th

Antoine Griezmann made history as the first player awarded a penalty by VAR. He, along with Paul Pogba, ensured Les Bleus beat Australia 2-1. Kylian Mbappe then got in on the act, scoring the game's only goal against Peru. 

There are no injury worries for France. Ousmane Dembele could be dropped, though, after performing poorly in the opening games. His form led to Didier Deschamps shifting from a free-flowing 4-3-3 formation to a more conservative 4-2-3-1. 

Defensively, the team is very inexperienced. Although Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti are both highly regarded, neither has proven their capability on the international stage. Left-back Lucas Fernandez has been brilliant, yet he has only seven caps. Captain Hugo Lloris is left to organise things at the back.    

N'Golo Kante and Pogba partner in central midfield. This combination gets the most from both players. Kante does all the defensive work effortlessly. He anticipates the ball, tackles anyone in sight and never stops running. It allows Pogba freedom to move forward, where he has a bigger effect on matches. 

Griezmann will start just behind Oliver Giroud. Mbappe, who has been involved in 10 goals since making his France debut 15 months ago, takes up on the right. He could become the first teenager to score in multiple World Cup games since Michael Owen in 1998. 

With a knockout place secure, it's a great opportunity for Deschamps to experiment with his line-up. Nabil Fekir deserves a shot. The winger should replace Blaise Matuidi.

On paper, Les Bleus have the best squad of all the teams in Russia. They must now prove it on the pitch.

Prediction

Denmark have conceded only once in this tournament. They won't roll over. Griezmann, Mbappe and Giroud will all struggle to put the ball past Schmeichel.  

Although Les Bleus have a perfect record up to now, their playing style does not breed optimism. Hareide must find one major flaw. Hint: it's on France's right-hand side. 

I'm not buying what Deschamps is selling. The French are a star-studded team, but the Danes are no less.

A 1-1 draw is the most likely outcome. Giroud to score a late equaliser. 

Harsh Vardhan

A pilot in the making residing in India, Harsh is also an ardent follower of European football and his heart resides in Manchester, particularly the blues. He has deep passion for writing, with special admiration for combined-elevens, while also contributing to the sports column of a local daily.


Total articles: 67

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