Socceroos in three-way bid to join France in last 16

Four years ago they faced a 'group of death' but this time the Socceroos have a fighting chance of surviving a 'group of hope' at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and reach the knockout phase of the competition for the second time in their history.

Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Fabio Cannavaro pulls out Australia Source: Bongarts

The draw for the 32-team event has placed Australia in Group C alongside France, Peru and Denmark.

It certainly is a tough and tricky section but all in all it is not a bad draw.

If the FIFA rankings are a proper gauge of the relative strengths of the world's teams then the Socceroos will have a big job on their hands to reach the promised land of the last 16.

The French are rated ninth in the world, the Peruvians are 11th and the Danes are 12th. The Australians, after all, are only 39th.

However, it could have been worse for the green and gold who are expected to know who their coach will be early in the new year after Ange Postcoglou's shock resignation two weeks ago.

There was always the possibility that the Socceroos be drawn against former champions Spain and England, who were both in the second pot of teams.

Which would have meant facing one of these two giants of the world game plus a top ranked side like Germany, Brazil or Argentina.

If current form is any guide, it would appear that the Socceroos are engaged in a three-way tussle with Peru and Denmark for the right to join France in the last 16.

It is a difficult assignment but impossible it certainly ain't as long as the Socceroos are at their best.

Australia face France in Kazan on Saturday 16 June (AEST), then play Denmark in Samara on Thursday 21 June before taking on Peru in Sochi on Wednesday 27 June.

Five days between games in a vast country with nine time zones should be fine for the squad that will be based in Kazan.

The French are seen as one of the favourites to win the tournament. After their shock 1-0 loss to Portugal in the 2016 European Championship final in Paris, the men in blue will be hellbent on leaving their mark on Russian soil by winning their second world crown or at least reaching the final.

Coach Didier Deschamps has at his disposal a set of world class players like Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann with a highly spectacular attacking game to match.

On their day the French can be frighteningly irresistible.

In a way it's good that the Socceroos will be up against Les Bleus in their first match because some big teams have a history of slow starts to major tournaments. The French themselves, remember, fell victim to an opening day shock when as world champions they crashed 1-0 to Senegal in 2002.
The clashes with Peru and Denmark will be affairs Australia cannot afford to lose and arguably more difficult for the Socceroos if they are to reach the next round.

The Peruvians and Danes came through the qualifying phase via playoffs against New Zealand and Ireland respectively, which they won rather comfortably.

The Australians however were forced into two play-offs against Syria and Honduras to book their ticket to Russia.

The Socceroos are the team that played the highest number of qualifiers to get to the finals so they should be able to take part in the event with a pretty settled side, unless the incoming coach makes significant changes to the team personnel and playing style.

After the horrible draw that the Australians had to endure in Brazil in 2014 when they had to face Chile, the Netherlands and Spain, this time the outcome comes as a relief.

Let's not get carried away. It is going to be hard for the Socceroos to emerge from the group but this time, contrary to 2014, their hopes of survival are more than justified.

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Published 2 December 2017 at 4:52am
By Philip Micallef