Who are Australia’s group stage opponents at World Cup 2018 & who could they play in knockouts?

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The Socceroos will face a tough battle to get out of the group stage in Russia

Australia make their fourth consecutive appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and will be keen to make an impression.

It will be the fifth time the Socceroos have competed on the biggest stage in world football, as Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk plots a way to make it to the knockout stage.

In order to do so they have to get through the group stage, where three challengers await them, before moving on to the round of 16.

Ahead of the big kick off in June, Goal takes a look at Australia's World Cup opponents, as well as taking a look at who they might face in the knockout stage.


Australia's World Cup 2018 opponents


Date Match Time (AEST) Venue
Jun 16 France vs Australia 20:00 Kazan Arena, Kazan
Jun 21 Denmark vs Australia 22:00 Cosmos Arena, Samara
Jun 27 Australia vs Peru 00:00 Fisht Stadium, Sochi

Australia have been drawn alongside France, Denmark and Peru in Group C of the 2018 World Cup, meaning that they are up against opposition from Europe and South America.

France are first up for the Socceroos on June 16 and they will face off against the European outfit at Kazan Arena.

Five days later, on June 24, Bert Van Marwijk's men will come up against 1992 European champions Denmark at Cosmos Arena.

Their final group game again comes five days later, with South American side Peru lying in wait at Fisht Stadium. 


France


Antoine Griezmann Paul Pogba France 2016

How did they qualify?

France reached the World Cup by finishing top of UEFA qualifying Group A, ahead of Sweden and the Netherlands. Les Bleus came through qualification with only one defeat, winning seven games and drawing twice. While they scored eight less goals than the second-placed Swedes, France only conceded six goals in their 10 qualifying matches. They were seeded in Pot One for the draw.

Who are their key players?

France are undoubtedly Australia's most difficult opponent in Group C, boasting an array of world-class players, most of whom the Australia public will be familiar with. Chelsea's Olivier Giroud and Atletico Madrid's Antoine Greizmann  both scored four goals during qualification, while the midfield is led by Chelsea's N'Golo Kante and Manchester United's Paul Pogba .

The squad features several dynamic young attackers including PSG's Kylian Mbappe , Monaco's Thomas Lemar , Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele and Lyon's Nabil Fekir . While they'll be missing Arsenal centre-half Laurent Koscielny, the central defensive partnership will still consist of Real Madrid's Raphael Varane and Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti.

Who is their manager?

France's manager Didier Deschamps captained his nation to glory in the World Cup on home soil in 1998 and the 2000 European Championship in Belgium and Netherlands - earning 103 caps. He took over as head coach in 2012 and led the team to the final of 2016 European Championship, also held on home soil. He is currently contracted to the national team until 2020.


Denmark


Christian Eriksen Denmark

How did they qualify?

Denmark finished second in UEFA qualifying group E, five points behind Poland, and secured their spot in Russia following a 5-1 playoff victory against Republic of Ireland. They also managed to defeat fellow World Cup qualifiers Poland 4-0 at home, and had the best defence in the group - conceding eight goals in 10 games. They were seeded in pot three for the draw.

Who are their key players?

The Danes are led by star Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen,  who scored eight and assisted three of his team's 20 goals in World Cup qualifying. Former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner  has been prolific at times for his nation, scoring 30 times in his 79 caps. Centre-half Andreas Christensen , who broke through at Chelsea this season, is a strong contender to start in defence alongside captain Simon Kjaer.

Who is their manager?

Denmark's head coach is Norweigan  Age Hareide , who has previously managed teams such as Norway, Rosenborg, Malmo and Brondby. He took over from Morton Olsen in 2016 after the Danes failed to qualify for the European Championships. When in charge of Norway from 2003-2008, the 64-year-old failed to take his home nation to any major tournaments and resigned following a poor start to their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.


Peru


Jefferson Farfan Peru

How did they qualify?

Peru will take part in their fifth World Cup and first since 1982 after sneaking through through CONMEBOL qualification on a dramatic last matchday. Going into the last game in sixth position, the Peruvians stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home against Colombia, but after Chile and Paraguay both were defeated, they snuck in to fifth spot and earned a playoff spot against Oceania's New Zealand. The Kiwis proved no trouble for the South Americans, who progressed with a comfortable 2-0 aggregate scoreline over two legs. Peru were seeded in Pot Two for the group stage draw.

Who are their key players?

Leading scorer and captain Paolo Guerrero will miss the tournament because of a drugs ban, leaving veteran striker Jefferson Farfan to lead the line. Winger Andre Carillo had a solid season for Premier League side Watford, on loan from Benfica, and will provide pace down the flanks.

Who is their manager?

Former Argentina international Ricardo Gareca has been in charge of Peru since 2015, leading the nation to their first World Cup in 36 years. The 60-year-old has an extensive managerial career including clubs such as Independiente, Velez Sarsfield and Palmeiras.


Who could Australia get in the knockouts?


Bert Van Marwijk

Should Australia qualify from Group C as one of the top two teams we know for sure that they will play a team from Group D in the round of 16. The four teams that make up Group D are: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.

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Argentina, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in the ranks, will be likely to top the group and be Australia's opponents - if the green and gold can sneak into second position.

If the unlikely occurs and the Socceroos top their group, they will most likely play against Croatia or Nigeria, with Iceland the outsiders of the trio.

An improbable quarter-final appearance could see Australia come up against Spain, Portugal or Uruguay.

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