FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup, Group C: France favourites to top; Australia, Denmark and Peru eye second spot

Expectations are high that a French side with the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann could win their second title after 20 years.

Didier Deschamps’ star-studded France are favourites to top Group C and will probably be followed by Denmark. However, Peru and Australia can crash their party.

With Paolo Guerrero back for Peru, Denmark vs Peru becomes an interesting clash. In all likelihood, the winner of that match will progress to the next round with France taking the top spot. Here is a look at Group C:

Group C: France, Peru, Australia, Denmark

France

France head into the World Cup with one of their strongest ever squads as they look to banish the memories of a painful extra-time defeat on home soil by Portugal in the Euro 2016 final. Expectations are high that a French side, that could afford to leave out the likes of Dimitri Payet, Kingsley Coman, Karim Benzema and Anthony Martial, could win a second world title.

A kind draw in Group C has only increased the pressure on Didier Deschamps’ outfit further as they head to Russia, with their first game against Australia on June 16 before facing Peru and Denmark. But previous much-vaunted France teams have fallen foul of similarly comfortable-looking groups over the years.

Embarrassing losses to Senegal and Denmark saw Les Bleus dumped out as holders in 2002. The current side showed plenty of fallibility in qualifying too, losing to Sweden and drawing with minnows Luxembourg before eventually topping their group.

Key player: Antoine Griezmann

One of the most lethal strikers in the world today, Griezmann will be on the prowl as soon as the whistle is blown. Along with Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe expect goals by the bucket-loads.

Prediction: France should leave the others scrapping for second place, although they will be keen to avoid a last-16 clash with Lionel Messi’s Argentina from Group D.

World Cup record: Their best showing in the World Cup occurred exactly 20 years ago when they were crowned champions for the first time in 1998.

Australia

Scheduled to meet highly-fancied France in their World Cup opener on June 16, Bert Van Marwijk’s men have a tough road ahead of them. Australia are based at the Trudovye Rezervy Stadium, the training centre of local top ice-hockey side Ak Bars Kazan.

Van Marwijk’s greatest moment was leading the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, when the ‘Oranje’ were beaten 1-0 by Spain in South Africa. But this current Australia crop would only seriously begin to impress home fans if they managed to qualify from a Group C.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding the starting XI and there is a sense of over-reliance on their talismanic forward and top scorer, Tim Cahill.

Key player: Tim Cahill

Image courtesy: AFP
Image courtesy: AFP

Australia’s ageing talisman Tim Cahill has endured a rocky road to his fourth World Cup. However, he is Australia’s all-time top scorer, with 50 goals, and has 105 caps, a record for an outfield player. On his day the ex-Evertonian can still hassle and harry opposition defences.

Prediction: Australia are nowhere close to their golden generation, which took to the field at Germany 2006. This current crop will do well to finish second, but are likely to end up at the bottom of this group.

World Cup record: Australia’s best World Cup performance was reaching the last 16 under Guus Hiddink in 2006. A dubious penalty call at the last minute saw them lose 1-0 to Italy.

Peru

Freed from his doping ban, Peru’s captain and main goalscorer Paolo Guerrero comes into the squad at the expense of Sergio Pena. Midfielder Pena signalled that he had been omitted with a post of his Instagram account on Sunday after playing as a second-half substitute as Peru beat Saudi Arabia, 3-0, in a World Cup warm-up game. Peru will also need a spark from another veteran attacker Jefferson Farfan, a 33-year-old who made a name for himself at PSV Eindhoven and Schalke and now plays in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow.

Peru are going to their first World Cup since 1982. They open their Group C campaign against Denmark in Saransk on June 16.

Key player: Paolo Guerrero

Image courtesy: AFP
Image courtesy: AFP

Peru’s captain and main goal scorer Paolo Guerrero is one of the country’s finest strikers. The mercurial captain has scored 34 goals for his country so far.

World Cup record: Peru’s best World Cup performance came way back in 1970 when they reached the quarter-finals. They have participated in five World Cups till date.

Prediction: Provided France finish first, the fight for second place is what Denmark, Peru and Australia are scrambling for. It is advantage Denmark as Peru are likely to finish third.

Denmark

Christian Eriksen’s Denmark could prove to be the best of the rest. Nicknamed “King Christian”, Eriksen is one of the top players in the Premier League and has been voted Danish footballer of the year four times.

“It’s not quite true that Denmark is over-dependent on Eriksen,” said Norwegian coach Age Hareide. “We have a team that works for him but he also works for us. It’s not a one-man show. That is the best combination. Christian is a part of the team but he is also a star, a fantastic football player,” said Hareide before a training session in sunny Anapa near the Black Sea coast.

He said if opponents consider Denmark a one-man team that could play into their hands as it would mean less focus on other creative players who can create chances. A picture posted on social media of a World Cup T-shirt on sale in Copenhagen jokingly claims that Denmark’s sole tactic in Russia will be to keep giving the ball to Eriksen until he scores.

Viktor Fischer and Kasper Dolberg should also prove to be a handful in attack as veterans Michael Krohn-Dehli and Lasse Schone will provide the experience in midfield. Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen and Sevilla’s Simor Kjaer will look to shut-out opposition, while sitting in front of number one Kasper Schmeichel.

Key player: Christian Eriksen

The Tottenham midfielder arrived at the World Cup in red-hot international form, with 12 goals in 13 games, the latest being a strike against Mexico in Denmark’s final warm-up match. Clearly lack of form is not a cause of concern but support from the rest of the cast is.

Prediction: They are expected to finish second. Even though the side is way too dependent on Eriksen, given their recent run in the warm-ups, they are likely to beat Peru for the second spot.

World Cup record: Denmark are participating in their fifth World Cup and their best performance came way back in 1998 when they reached the quarter-finals.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.