2018 World Cup Soccer Odds and Expert Picks: Group C
I've complained a lot already about how unexciting the draw is for this year's World Cup. There isn't a whole lot of intrigue, and that contributes to what feels like lessened excitement for this year's edition of the world's finest tournament. While I haven't really softened that opinion, Group C sets up as one of the more interesting groups. France should be a stone-cold lock to advance from this group as the winner, but they are still France so we can't be totally certain that we'll see their best effort. But the battle for the second spot in the playoff round is fascinating. Bettors like Denmark. I'm not alone in really liking Peru as a potential upstart. And Australia feels outmatched, but they are one of those squads that can rise up when their backs are against the wall. It all should be very interesting - especially if France looks mortal.
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Group C at a glance
Best team: France. They are a complicated team to love - as we will touch on later - but they are talented, and their upside is high - they are one of a handful of teams that could win this tournament without causing any real shock. But they could also go home very early and we wouldn't be overwhelmed by shock.
Worst team: Australia fits here, but I don't say that with disrespect. Given their size and distance from the heartland of world soccer, their consistent appearances here in the World Cup, and feistiness when they arrive, are impressive. Compare them, for example, to a Canadian program that is similarly situated in many ways but which is so far from World Cup qualification that it's a total joke.
Best game: Denmark and Peru open their runs with a showdown that will tell us a lot about both teams - and which should be a great team by its own measure.
Predicted order of finish: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia. If France doesn't win the group then it will set off a national crisis. I like Peru by a narrow margin over Denmark, and Australia will bring up the rear. The French are the only true contender, though, and I really struggle to see them as a true threat when all the dust settles.
Team-by-team Breakdown (odds to win Group and tournament from BetOnline.com )
France (+550 to win tournament, -350 to win Group C): How you feel about this team depends on your view. On one hand they overwhelmed the favored Germans in the semifinals of Euro 2016, and they were a solid 7-1-2 in qualification play leading up to this tournament. But on the negative side that win over the Germans was played at home, and they came out very flat in front of a home crowd against a Portugal team they should have beaten in the final. And those two draws in qualifying came against Luxembourg and Belarus - by far the worst teams in the group - so they don't always give a top effort. When they struggle it's because their offensive creativity is shockingly absent. They have talent galore but often don't know what to do with it. It's frustrating for an outsider, so it must be just awful for their fans. On paper this is a really strong team, though, so even at somewhat less than full potential they are certainly dangerous enough to advance here. I would be shocked if they don't make the round of 16, but I have real reservations at this point about what they will do when they get there.
Denmark (+8000, +500): Christian Eriksen, who plays for Tottenham when not representing his nation, is a world-class offensive talent, and he leads a strong group of offensive players. This is a team that went all the way to the quarterfinals in 1998 but then has struggled since. But they have potentially their best team ever with that offense accompanied by some solid defensive talent. The lack of experience is a concern - at least experience of succeeding at this tournament. But there is a good reason why people like this team.
Peru (+15,000, +800): There aren't big names here, but they are quietly dangerous. They played Argentina to a draw in qualifying - twice. And they were right behind the Argentinians and a very strong Colombia team at the end of CONMEBOL qualification cycle. They are very aggressive on both sides of the ball and are quite happy when their games turn into a gunfight. They are definitely third in the group in terms of talent - by quite a margin - but I might respect their heart and determination most, and I quite like their chances to make things very uncomfortable for Denmark. In fact, I like their chances to send the Danish side packing.
Australia (+20,000, +1400): There are things to like about this team, and they are very well coached. But Tim Cahill is yet again their most important offensive player, and at 38 years old now it's hard to get excited about him. The team didn't qualify smoothly, having to go into a playoff round after finishing third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in their group. They get credit for getting here, but the Socceroos don't feel like a legitimate presence in this group. This is their fourth straight appearance, and this is the fourth best of those teams in my eyes.
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