Predicted order of finish: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia.
Outlook: It’s hard to see the French going home early this summer, given the wealth of vibrant attackers and pillars of European club soccer in the lineup. Many observers see them as genuine title contenders —but only if they perform in harmony and avoid the selfish trappings that sunk past squads.
Three of the five most expensive club transfers in history involved current French players: Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to Paris Saint-German for $168 million), Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona, $122 million) and Paul Pogba ( Juventus to Manchester United, $122 million). The squad also features hardened goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur) and veteran scorers Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) and Olivier Giroud (Chelsea).
The defense, however, is suspect, and coach Didier Deschamps must keep this group on the same page.
Although they are clear group favorites, Les Bleus will not have an easy time. Denmark showed its fortitude in the qualifying playoffs by rolling to a 5-1 victory at Ireland after a disappointing 0-0 home draw.
Peru is making its first appearance since 1982, an astounding drought considering its prosperity at the continental championship, Copa America (semifinals in 1997, 2011 and 2015). Credit goes to its Argentine coach, Ricardo Gareca, who, after a rocky start to qualifying, oversaw eight matches without a defeat, including a playoff triumph against New Zealand.
Kylian Mbappe hopes to help keep things looking up for France.