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Coach: Bert van Marwijk
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Nickname: Socceroos
Kit: Home – yellow; Away – dark green
Cup Best Record: Second round 2006

Goalkeepers: Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk)

Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), Fran Karacic (Lokomotiva), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshoppers)

Midfielders: Josh Brillante (Sydney FC), Jackson Irvine (Hull), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Robbie Kruse (Bochum), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), Mark Milligan (Al Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)

Forwards: Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tim Cahill (Millwall), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa)

(Teams have until June 4 to finalise the 23 man squad)

Road to World Cup: Australia were forced to take the long route in order to book their fourth consecutive place in the World Cup Finals.

In their opening qualifying group, the Aussies topped the group ahead of Jordan. However, they were drawn in a tough group in the final group phase qualifiers.

Australia finished third in the group behind both Japan and Saudi Arabia, missing out on an automatic berth to the Saudi’s on goal difference.

They defeated Syria, who finished third in the other final group phase qualifiers, 3-2 on aggregate.

That earned them a take it all playoff against Honduras, The Aussies drew 0-0 away and turned on the heat with a 3-1 win at home to earn book their berth in Russia.


Player to watch

Date of Birth: September 15, 1990 (age 27 years)
Place of Birth: Sydney, Australia
Height: 1.74m
Club: Huddersfield Town AFC (#10 / Midfielder)

Aaron Mooy has made a name for himself with Huddersfield and will be hoping to replicate the success with the Australian team in Russia.

His contribution earned Huddersfield a promotion to the Premier League in the 2016/7 season.

He was honoured as the club’s player of the year for his excellent display. In fact, he is being heralded as the club’s best ever signing and is currently sought after other Premier League clubs including West Ham.

It was his assist in the crucial goal against Chelsea that ensured Huddersfield continued presences in the Premier League next season.

Mooy is expected to play a key role in midfield for the Aussies. His ability to turn defence to attack would need to be at optimal level for the side to have a chance against their group rivals.

Team assessment:
Following Australia’s qualification, coach Ange Postecoglou resigned and was replaced by Bert van Marwijk.

The sudden departure is not expected to see much difference in the Australian style of play. Van Marwick has not had the time to impose his style on the team and is expected to continue with Postecoglou’s legacy.

The team’s 1-4 defeat to Norway and the scoreless draw with Colombia in friendly matches earlier this year will be of some concern.

The coach will need to look into their defensive frailty and also their inability to score.

They do have an experience midfield comprising of Mooy, Massimo Luongo and Tom Rogic. Their ability to fall back in defence and assist the forwards would be crucial for Australia.

While veteran Tim Cahill’s scoring record looms strongly, Australia are expected to put their trust on Tomi Juric.



Coach: Age Hareide
Captain: Simon Kjaer
Nickname: De Rod-Hvide (The Red and White)
Kit: Home – red; Away – white
Cup Best Record: Quarter-finals 1998

Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Frederik Ronow (Brondby), Jesper Hansen (FC Midtjylland)

Defenders: Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Andreas Bjelland (Brentford), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Peter Ankersen (FC Copenhagen), Jens Stryger (Udinese), Riza Durmisi (Real Betis), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich), Nicolai Boilesen (FC Copenhagen)

Midfielders: William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Mike Jensen (Rosenborg), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Daniel Wass (Celta Vigo), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton), Mathias Jensen (FC Nordsjaelland), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna), Robert Skov (FC Copenhagen)

Strikers: Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Martin Braithwaite (Bordeaux), Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Nicklas Bendtner (Rosenborg), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax), Kenneth Zohore (Cardiff)

(Teams have until June 4 to finalise the 23 man squad)

Road to World Cup: Denmark, together with Australia and Peru, also had to go through the playoffs to book their Finals berth.

They only managed a second place finish in their European qualifying group, five points behind Poland.

The Danes had missed out on the 2014 Finals and failed to get out of their group at the previous edition. Missing out from the Finals in Russia would have unthinkable.

They were up against the gutsy Republic of Ireland in the playoff. After managing only a scoreless draw at home in the first match, Denmark romped away 5-1 in the return leg.


Player to watch
Date of Birth: February 14, 1992 (age 26 years)
Place of Birth: Middelfart, Denmark
Height: 1.82m
Club: Tottenham Hotspurs (#23 / Midfielder)

When the Danes last played at the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa, Christian Eriksen was the youngest player in the tournament.

This time around, he is no longer a rookie, but the player who can change Denmark’s fortunes in Russia.

It was his glorious playoff hattrick against Northern Ireland that helped booked Denmark’s place in Russia.

The Tottenham Hotspurs’ stalwart is acknowledged as one of the best playmakers in world football.

His 11 second goal against Manchester United earlier in the season is the fastest ever in the Premier League. Not bad considering that Spurs has the likes of Harry Kane as their striker.

Ericksen’s vital contributions helped Spurs to a top three finish and a Champions League spot next season.

He will be expected to play a similar role for the Danes as they look to improve on their 1998 quarter-finals appearance.

Team assessment
Denmark had conceded only nine goals in 12 qualifying games, but their defensive game is still a suspect.

If Ericksen and Pione Sisto are able to create enough openings for the towering Nicolai Jorgensen upfront it would help ease the pressure on the Danish defence.

They have the experienced Simon Kjaer as a reliable center back but have yet to settle with fullback on both of his sides.

However six footers Thomas Delany and William Kvist would be steady influence in the midfield as well as falling back in defence.

Still, Denmark’s fortunes would be decided on the form of Eriksen. An on-song Eriksen can help the side to be serious contenders for one of the two teams to progress to the next round.



Coach: Didier Deschamps
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Nickname: Les Bleus
Kit: Home – all blue; Away – all white
Cup Best Record: Winners 1998

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain)

Defenders: Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla)

Forwards: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Nabil Fekir (Lyon)

Road to World Cup: France qualified for the Finals as Group B champions despite being drawn with Sweden and the Netherlands.

The finished four points ahead of their two key rivals but there were some anxious moments when they lost to the Swedes away and dropped points with Belarus and Luxembourg.

Since qualification, the French side have played four friendly internationals including an impressive 2-2 draw with defending World Cup winners Germany.

However, the 2-3 defeat to Colombia in March will be of concern to the talented French side.


Player to watch
Date of Birth: March 21, 1991 (age 27 years)
Place of Birth: Macon, France
Height: 1.75m
Club: Atletico Madrid (#7 / Forward)

Antoine Griezmann remains the most consistent of the players in the French side, packed with talented stars.

The 27 year old Atletico Madrid striker is linked with a move to Barcelona, outlining his stature as a prolific forward.

He scored a fabulous brace as Atletico Madrid sealed their third Europa League title in nine years with a 3-0 victory over Marseille.

He was the Golden Boot winner and named as the tournament’s best player at the Euro 2016. He scored six goals, although it was not enough to see his team past Portugal in the final.

Team assessment
With talents like Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe in their lineup, the French side will be an envy of most teams.

And with it comes its own set of problems for coach Didier Deschamps. Not only he has his hands full on deciding who should play and who should not, he would also have to deal with the eccentricity of the talented young players.

He is already under fire by some quarters for failing to pick the likes of Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet, Kingsley Coman, Karim Benzema and Adrien Rabiot.

Deschamps, who captained the French side to the 1998 World Cup and the Euros two years later, will have to manage his talented players including and especially Paul Pogba.

If he is able to get his charges to perform as a unit, they are capable of going all the way. But they need to translate their talent and new found confidence on field.

Deschamps has opted for youth and whatever happens in Russia, this French team will be a side for the future.



Coach: Ricardo Gareca
Captain: Alberto Rodriguez
Nickname: La Bicolor or La Blanquirroja
Kit: Home – white with red stripe; Away – red with white stripe
Cup Best Record: Quarter-finals 1970

Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), José Carvallo (UTC), Carlos Caceda (Municipal)

Defenders: Luis Abram (Vélez Sarsfield), Luis Advíncula (Lobos), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Nilson Loyola (Melgar), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Alberto Rodríguez (Junior), Anderson Santamaría (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo)

Midfielders: Pedro Aquino (Lobos), Wilmer Cartagena (Veracruz), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Paolo Hurtado (Vitória Guimaraes), Sergio Pena (Grenade), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Renato Tapia (Feyernoord), Yoshimar Yotún (Orlando City)

Strikers: Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo), André Carrillo (Watford), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow).

(Teams have until June 4 to finalise the 23 man squad)

Road to World Cup: It has been 36-years since Peru last made an appearance at the World Cup in 1982.

That they qualified for the Finals itself was a miracle of sorts. They overcame a disastrous start to the campaign and were also helped by a stroke of luck as they finished fifth in the CONMEBOL qualifiers.

The team were on the verge of missing out on the World Cup again with just four points and languishing in eighth place. But with just five games left to play, coach Ricardo Gareca, managed to swing their fortunes.

But, they were also helped by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling against Bolivia for fielding an ineligible player against Chile and Peru gave both teams points they had not won on the field.

Peru went on to carve out away wins against Paraguay and Ecuador before a final-round draw against Colombia saw them clinch the fifth spot and a ticket to play an intercontinental playoff.

The Peruvians were held to a scoreless draw by New Zealand in Wellington but a 2-0 win at home in Lima earned them the ticket to Rusia.

Player to watch
Date of Birth: January 1, 1984 (age 34 years)
Place of Birth: Chorrillos District, Peru
Height: 1.85m
Club: Flamengo (#9 / Forward)

For a while it looked like captain Paolo Guerrero was likely to miss the tournament following of positive test for cocaine

But a Swiss court agreed on Thursday to temporarily lift a 14-month suspension, imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas), while it considered the 34-year-old striker’s appeal.

The captains of Peru’s Group C rivals Australia, Denmark and France had also written to FIFA asking them to lift the ban.

Guerroro, who play for Flamengo in Brazil, is Peru’s all time highest goalscorer with 32 goals from 86 international appearances.

Like his brother and former international Julio Rivera, Guerrero was a product of the Lima youth programme.

He scored the second goal in Peru’s 2–0 win over Paraguay to help Peru to third place at the Copa América for a second consecutive time. He also finishied as joint top-goalscorer with Chile’s Eduardo Vargas.

Team assessment
Guerrero’s return will be a major boost for Peru.

While the expectations are high at home, Peru will find it difficult to get past the group stages.

Their recent unbeaten run in both competitions and friendly matches is primarily due to their defensive strength.

But their consistency in defence will not be enough if they cannot find the net upfield.

They will be hoping for Jefferson Farfan and Edison Flores will be as consistent as Guerrero in scoring.

Peru would also be looking towards Christian Cueva. The 26-year-old attacking midfielder from Sao Paulo not only creates the chances but is also known to be able to score some spectacular goals.

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