Group C & D Matchday One Previews : All Eyes on Argentina
Event Venue: Karan, Sasansk, Moscow and Kaliningrad, June 16. Live on BBC1 and ITV.See Stats
Saturday June 16 is going to be a busy day with all the matches in Groups C and D taking place. Our preview looks ahead to the games being played as France and Argentina begin their 2018 World Cup campaigns.
France v Australia - Saturday June 16 11am
France are among the favourites to win the trophy but find themselves in a group that has three of the top 12 in the FIFA World Rankings. This isn't quite a group of death but it's a bit tricky for the French. They won their qualifying group ahead of Sweden and the Netherlands and have only lost one of their last 12 games going into this tournament. They certainly have a squad that is capable of going deep into the tournament with stars such as Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Greizmann. There are tougher games ahead for them but they should be able to win this opener against a team they beat 6-0 last time the two sides met.
It was a long qualifying route for Australia who had a group and two play-offs before booking their tickets for Russia. It would have been an easier route but for the fact they failed to win any of their seven away quallfiers. In the last World Cup, Australia lost all three games and conceded three goals in each defeat. Another disappointing campaign looks likely here considering the oppoosition and Australia's away form. It has picked up a little bit though with a win in Hungary though the winning goal was 92nd minute own-goal. This looks a tough game for the Socceroos, go for France to win on a -1 handicap.
Get odds of 8/11 on France beating Australia on a -1 handicap with Coral (18+ t&c's apply)
Peru v Denmark - Saturday June 16 5pm
Just the one place separates these two teams in the FIFA World Rankings and this should be the game that decides which will finish second behind France. Peru are on a 15-game unbeaten run at present with the last team to beat them being Brazil. They finished fifth in the South American qualifyiing group and had to beat New Zealand to reach the finals. They had won five games in a row before a goalless draw with Sweden in their final warm-up match. Recent wins have been against Croatia, Iceland, Scotland and Saudi Arabia. Seven of their last nine games have had under 2.5 goals scored in them though. Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan have 59 international goals between them but there are precious little goals elsewhere in the squad aside from Edison Flores who has nine from his 30 appearances.
Denmark also had to go through a play-off to reach these finals. They finished second behind Poland and then knocked the Republic of Ireland out with that stunning 5-1 away win with Tottenham's Christian Eriksen scoring a hat-trick. The Danes failed to qualify for the last World Cup and had never reached the finals until doing so in 1986. They are in decent form coming into this tournament with two wins and two draws with four clean sheets. They beat Panama and Mexico and had two goalless draws with Mexico and Sweden. Three of their last six games have failed to see a goal scored in them and with seven of their last nine having under 2.5 goals scored in them, the best way to use your free bet is on there being under 2.5 goals in this match.
You can get odds of 6/10 on Under 2.5 goals with Betfair (18+ t&c's apply)
Argentina v Iceland - Saturday 16 June 2pm
This promises to be one of the most interesting Matchday 1 games. Argentina very nearly didn't make it though to these finals while Iceland play in them for the very first time. Argentina have some great players in Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, who between them have scored 132 international goals, but they so nearly missed out on making it to Russia. They needed a win in Ecuador to confirm their place with Messi getting a hat-trick to rescue his country. Form since qualification has been patchy with a 4-2 loss to Nigeria and 6-1 defeat in Spain but they have beaten Russia and Italy. Just how well they play in this game will go a long way towards deciding whether they can win their first World Cup since 1986. That definitely applies to their defence and whether goalkeeper Willy Caballero can cope with the pressure after spending nearly all season on the Chelsea bench.
Iceland have done what Wales couldn't and that's build on their 2016 European Championship achievements. England fans don't have to be reminded of what Iceland did two years ago on their way to the quarter finals. It was important they built on that and did so by winning their qualifying group to reach the World Cup finals for the first time. Ir was their 100 percent home record that won them the group with only two away wins. They come into this tournament in poor form though with no wins in their last four games and 11 goals conceded, all a bit worrying when going up against Argentina's strikers. They led 2-0 in their final warm-up game but were pegged back for a 2-2 draw. Alfred Finnbogason has scored in their last two games but unless their opponents have one of their off-days, this looks booked for an Argentinian win with over 2.5 goals being scored in the game.
Croatia v Nigeria - Saturday 16 June 8pm
Croatia had to go through the play-offs to reach this tournament. They would have avoided that but for a last minute equalizer by Finland that saw them end up as runners-up to Iceland who they meet again in this group. Croatia easily disposed of Greece in the play-offs winning the first leg 4-1 at home and drawing the away leg 0-0. This is the fifth time in the last six tournaments Croatia have qualified but since a third place finish in 1998 they have failed to get out of their group but did reach the last sixteen at Euro 2016. Current form has seen recent wins over Mexico and Nigeria with a 2-0 loss to Brazil. The 2-1 win over Senegal was the first time in the last five games they'd scored twice in a game. They have an experienced squad and will be hoping Mario Mandzukic will add to his 30 international goals and he scored five times in the qualifying group.
The Nigerian side won their qualifying group by five points and only lost one of their six games, It would have been an unbeaten run but a 1-1 draw against Algeria was replaced with a 3-0 loss after it was found they had fielded an ineligible player, so they better not make that mistake again in Russia. This is their third straight appearance in the World Cup finals and they made the last sixteen in 2014 losing 2-0 to France. Recent form is poor though with three defeats and a draw in their last four matches. That included a 2-1 loss to England at Wembley in which they were dreadful in the first half but picked up a fair bit in the second. This preview believes Croatia have the form to get the win in this match.
Get odds of 4/5 on Croatia beating Nigeria with Paddy Power (18+ t&c's apply)
- Argentina have only been beaten by Germany in their last 18 games at the World Cup finals.
- Argentina have only had one warm-up game beating Haiti 4-0 with a Lionel Messi hat-trick
- Icelahd have gone four games without a win losing three of them.
- Iceland have conceded 11 goals in those last four games.
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in nine of the last 11 Croatia games.
- Croatia have only won one of their last seven games played at the World Cup finals.
- Nigeria have only won one of their last six internationals with four defeats
- The Nigerian side have only won one of their last 12 games played at the World Cup finals.
- France have only lost one of their last 12 games.
- The last meeting between France and Australia ended in a 6-0 win for the French.
- Australia lost all three of their games at the last World Cup conceding three goals in each match
- There have been under 2.5 goals in seven of the last nine Denmark matches.
- Denmark have lost three of their last four games at the World Cup finals.
- Denmark have kept four straight clean sheets.
- Peru are on a 15-game unbeaten run.
- Seven of the last nine Peru games have had under 2.5 goals scored in them
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