France’s coach has drawn comparisons between Australia and Ireland as his team prepare for their first pre-FIFA World Cup friendly match.
Plus, as Peru prepare to play Scotland, one of their stars explains his Danish connection and excitement ahead of Group C.
It’s all in our latest edition of Opponent Watch!
France will play the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday morning (AEST) in the first of their three pre-FIFA World Cup friendlies.
Didier Deschamps’ side face the Caltex Socceroos in game one of the group stage in Russia, on Friday 16 June at 8pm AEST, and the coach has said he has planned friendlies around preparing his men for the Group C challenge.
With Denmark and Peru the other two Group C opponents for France, Deschamps has said the challenge that Ireland will pose can help prepare his team for the FIFA World Cup.
"I don't want the Irish journalists to think that we chose Ireland because we thought we were going to have fun and we were going to win,” Deschamps told journalists when asked if he was hoping for comfortable wins – as the team achieved prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
"We played Ireland at the Euros and it was very hard.
“We chose this team because they have the same profile as the ones we are going to face at the World Cup, and it's going to be a tough game, I can tell you that."
Peru winger Edison Flores has given insight into how he reacted to drawing Denmark in the FIFA World Cup, currently plying his trade with Danish club Aalborg BK.
With Peru set to play Scotland, Saudi Arabia and Sweden before their opening Group C match against Denmark, Flores told FIFA.com how the initial draw took place, with club teammates watching with interest.
“We had an away game and we all sat down to watch the Final Draw,” he told FIFA.com. “It was funny. Everyone was laughing and joking.”
He added: “It helped me relax. I’d never experienced a draw like that and I was nervous.
“[The Danish players] wanted Peru or Panama in their group, or both of them even, because they felt it would give them a better chance of getting through to the last 16. And it just so happens that we’ve got them in our opening game!”
Danish coach Age Hareide could see his comments about France be used as ammunition as French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda responded to some vocal declarations out of Denmark camp.
Hareide, who has cut his 35-man squad down to 27 players ahead of the FIFA World Cup, came out last week to say France were “nothing special”, as Didier Deschamps’ team stand as one of the favourites for the tournament.
Hareide said: “I saw France against Poland and against Sweden in Stockholm. They are nothing special.
“The teams at the top of the world rankings are the best at the World Cup, but this does not apply to France.
“They have to work together as a team, but they don’t have a leader like Zinedine Zidane to pull them all together.”
Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who is included in Deschamps’ 23-man preliminary squad, has responded saying his team will use Hareide’s quotes as motivation for when the two sides face.
“Everyone has the right to say what they want, but we are going to the World Cup with a lot of desire and ambition,” Mandanda said.
“We’ll see what happens, but the things he said can be a source of extra motivation, so why not use it?”
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