The Socceroos will start their 2018 World Cup campaign against former champions and tournament fancies France, with group matches to follow against Denmark and Peru.
Australia has avoided another group of death in Russia but will be doing well to reach the knockout rounds after being drawn against three teams ranked in the world’s top 12 nations.
Socceroos’ schedule in Russia
- Australia v France (Kazan Arena, Kazan), Saturday June 16, 8pm AEST
- Australia v Denmark (Cosmos Arena, Samara), Friday June 22, 1am AEST
- Australia v Peru (Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi), Tuesday June 26, 12am AEST
France are the most formidable opponents.
Les Bleus are ranked as one of the favourites in 2018 — behind only Germany and Brazil — and were responsible for knocking out heavyweights the Netherlands in qualifying.
But the Socceroos will rate their chances of progressing past both Peru (world number 11) and Denmark (12) given their struggles to reach Russia.
World Cup 2018 groups
|Group A||Group B|
|Group C||Group D|
|Group E||Group F|
|Group G||Group H|
Denmark finished second in their European group behind Poland, losing to minnows Montenegro at home.
They eventually qualified with a play-off win over Ireland.
Denmark defender Peter Ankersen conceded France will be a strong contender but “there are places you can hurt” them.
“The other two teams, Australia and Peru, I’m not too familiar with them,” he said.
Ankerson said it was a “a good enough draw.”
Peru finished fifth out of 10 teams in South American qualifying, defeating New Zealand in a play-off to book their place at a first World Cup since 1982.
Australia, without a coach after Ange Postecoglou’s resignation last week, needed two play-offs of their own to progress to a fourth-straight tournament.
But they will be buoyed by the draw, which is more manageable than their task four years ago: heavyweights Chile, 2010 finalists the Netherlands and Spain, the team who beat the Dutch to lift the trophy in South Africa.
Germany will face off against Sweden, Mexico and South Korea, whilst England was drawn in a group with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.
German coach Joachim Loew said their group was “a very interesting group of opponents.”
“We know Mexico … Sweden we know from Europe …South Korea is a bit more unknown for us but I look forward to this group,” he said.
“There is no reason for us to be nervous.”
England has not lost to Belgium in their last 11 games, they beat Tunisia in the 1998 World Cup, and have never met Panama.
England manager Gareth Southgate, however, was not taking anything for granted.
“We’ve had a habit of writing teams off then losing to them,” he said.
Russia will have some homework to do before facing Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay, having never played any of those teams before.