Demola Ojo in Saint Petersburg
The pressure is on Denmark in Group C as they need a result against an already-qualified France today in Moscow to ensure progress into the knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
It will be a huge day for Denmark, as they seek to go beyond the round-robin stage for the first time since the 2002 finals.
In their previous outing, the Danes were below their best but still managed to dig out a 1-1 draw with Australia. The Socceroos take on Peru in their final group match, knowing they need to win and hope France can topple Denmark to get into the round of 16.
As for the French, manager Didier Deschamps will likely view this game as a chance to rest some key players. Narrow wins over Australia and Peru mean they are already into the knockout round.
Neither flashy nor high-scoring, France earned its place in the round of 16 with little fuss.
A draw against Denmark today will be enough to win Group C, and avoid the Group D winner — almost certain to be the impressive Croatia.
“As we all know, the team that is in very good shape is Croatia,” France midfielder Paul Pogba said on Sunday.
“May this (opponent) be Nigeria, Argentina or Iceland, it will be still difficult.”
A draw at the Luzkniki Stadium will also send Denmark into the knockout round regardless of Australia’s result playing Peru at the same time in Sochi.
Although France may lack a signature win, like Croatia’s 3-0 dismantling of Argentina, or a rush of goals, like eight each for Belgium and England, it is in a familiar place.
France started its run to the 2016 European Championship final with two wins. The team made a more flamboyant start at the 2014 World Cup, with 3-0 and 5-2 victories, but that campaign in Brazil stalled in the quarterfinals.
“I will get better and better French striker Antoione Griezmann told French television show Telefoot on Sunday. “It was the same at the Euros. It was only after the (second round) that I started to play very well.”
Griezmann has scored one goal in Russia, the same tally he had after two games at Euro 2016, where he ended as tournament leading scorer with six.
“It’s not because he did not score in the last game that he’s not the same Griezmann,” Pogba said. “As I already said to you before the World Cup, don’t touch my `Grizou.’ Have you forgotten the last Euro? Don’t play with my `Grizou.”
Denmark is looking to advance from the group stage for the fourth time in its fifth World Cup appearance, but coach Age Hareide will have two players unavailable to face the French.
Yussuf Poulsen, who scored in a 1-0 opening win over Peru, is suspended after being shown yellow cards for conceding a penalty in each game so far. Both judgments came after video review.
Midfielder William Kvist has returned to Russia after going home for treatment on cracked ribs and a punctured lung sustained while playing against Peru.
“It’s now only the fractures on the ribs that give him problems,” Hareide told Danish broadcaster TV2. “So we have to see if he’s fit to train after the match against France.”
Russia 0-3 Uruguay
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt
Spain 2-2 Morocco
Portugal 1-1 Iran
Australia Vs Peru 1pm
Denmark Vs France 1pm
Iceland Vs Croatia 7pm
Nigeria Vs Argentina 7pm