Heart of Football

32 Sides to Every Story: Group C – France, Denmark, Peru & Australia

Welcome to the third part of our epic tale of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, told through the eyes of those on the ground. I spoke to a fan from all 32 nations to get a taste for how they had travelled to Russia, their impressions of the tournament and the enduring emotions they were left with.

Group C was an intriguing one to call. France were favoured to win the group with ease; their young team had played marvellously well at Euro 2016 and several of these players had matured over time. The race for second was exciting and near-impossible to predict. Denmark were favourites to join France in the knockouts, with the creative talent of Christian Eriksen pulling the strings.

Australia were playing in their fourth consecutive World Cup and were looking to escape the group stage for the first time since 2006. They were underwhelming in qualifying, however, having to go through the playoffs against Syria and Honduras to reach Russia 2018. Peru arrived as something of an unknown quantity – they edged out Chile on goal difference to reach the inter-continental playoff against New Zealand, which saw them win 2-0 on aggregate.

For a group that appeared to be so unpredictable, things turned out rather predictably. France and Denmark wouldn’t make many highlight compilations with their “style” of football, but were effective. Between them both they scored just five goals over six games, but crucially only let in one each – both of them being penalties by Australia’s Mile Jedinak.

This brings about Australia’s problem – creation. They played okay and can count themselves unlucky to have lost to France, but scoring from open play alluded them. Peru suffered a similar fate. They played eye-catching, high-tempo football, but it wasn’t until their final match against Australia that the goals came, by which time they had already been eliminated.


While no team wants to leave in the groups, there is some solace that Peru and Australia fell to the eventual champions. Denmark’s journey came to an end in the round of 16 against Croatia. They drew 1-1 (both goals scored in the opening five minutes), before losing on penalties. France grew in strength and style, dispatching of Argentina (4-2), Uruguay (2-0) and Belgium (1-0), before facing Denmark’s defeaters, Croatia, in the final. A gloriously entertaining, high-scoring game saw the French triumph 4-2, exorcising their demons of 2016 and winning their second ever FIFA World Cup.

I spoke to Mathieu Goldschmidt, Lasse Bauer, Wilder Jan and Stephen Ganavas about their experience in Russia that summer.


Mathieu (32)

Games attended:

France 2-1 Australia

Poland 1-2 Senegal

Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica

Travelling to Russia:

I went with three friends (two French fans and one Moroccan fan). We flew to Moscow and took trains once we were in Russia.

No trip to the 2018 World Cup would have been complete without a classic photo in Red Square. [image: Mathieu Goldschmidt]

Just how special was it to see your country lift the World Cup, particularly after the heartbreak of 2016?

At the beginning we didn’t think France could be world champions, but after the crazy game against Argentina (for me the most beautiful of the tournament), we realised that our team was super strong in defence and that we had amazing strikers to score goals.

Mathieu Goldschmidt and friends didn’t only follow their native France, but took in Poland vs Senegal in Moscow. [image: Mathieu Goldschmidt]

I live in Barcelona, but I travelled back to Paris to live the finale in my country and celebrate with all my friends.

Tournament highlight: 

For me it was in Moscow when we went to the street where all the fans from all over the world were. The atmosphere was fantastic! We did the World Cup in 2014 as well, but for us the Russian edition was better in term of atmosphere and organisation.

Tell your story from Russia:

I loved the first game in Kazan. Kazan is a very beautiful city, not very famous but with amazing people! We met a lot of Russians, very welcoming and super happy to see French people discovering their city and heritage, as it’s not a very touristy city in normal times. People were asking us to take pictures with our French flag all the time. We were kind of rockstars there! One guy even invited us for a full meal with the traditional vodka shot just to show us his sense of hospitality! It was for sure one of our highlights of this trip!

Australia came within nine minutes of claiming a point against the eventual winners France in Kazan, but still went home empty-handed. [image: Mathieu Goldschmidt]

We also loved going to the fan zones. In Moscow it was huge and super beautiful in a big park. In St Petersburg we watched France vs Peru under the rain with many French fans and we met a guy that we had seen totally randomly in the same bar in Paris to watch the finale!

France fan Mathieu Goldschmidt with one Morocco-supporting friend watching Brazil vs Costa Rica at the World Cup in Russia – talk about a blend of cultures… [image: Mathieu Goldschmidt]

The most surreal thing was this… We were walking in Moscow one night when we saw a Peruvian TV crew filming. When they saw us they have asked us if we wanted to participate to the show as France was playing against Peru the day after. We said ok but the interview was in Spanish and almost none of us was spoke the language!!  We did it and we saw the show on the Facebook page of the TV channel. It was funny to see us analysing the game with our ‘amazing’ Spanish level! 


Lasse (32)

Games attended:

Denmark 1-1 Australia

England 6-1 Panama

Denmark 0-0 France

Panama 1-2 Tunisia

Croatia 1-1 Denmark 

Travelling to Russia:

I flew in with a friend and then met a lot of my friends on the road where we travelled around. We would then meet up in the city the night before Denmark played.

A swarm of Danish fans contributed to the awesome atmosphere in Moscow. [image: Lasse Bauer]

Denmark received some criticism for their unadventurous style, particularly in their final group game against France. Did you feel let down by this style, or were you just happy to progress out of the group stage?

The France match was a terrible game to watch as a fan, but it gave us confidence in the knockout phase. I’m more angry that they didn’t seem to practice penalty shootouts as much as teams like England. This was my generation’s chance of creating a good World Cup result. Russia wasn’t a very good team to play in the quarter finals, so I wish we had gotten past Croatia.

Denmark taking on eventual champions France at the Luzhniki. [image: Lasse Bauer]

Tournament highlight: 

It was the game against Croatia. We were so close to a great result. It was full of nerves and intensity.

Nizhny Novgorod created an epic background for Denmark vs Croatia in the last 16. [image: Denmark vs Croatia]

Tell your story from Russia:

The large Danish party at the red square before the game against France. Two Danish fans – Jens and Bjarne – have travelled with the national team for years and arranged pre match meetings. It was a great experience without any problems for us.


Wilder (35)

Games attended:

Peru 0-1 Denmark

France 1-0 Peru

Poland 0-3 Colombia

Australia 0-2 Peru

Travelling to Russia:

I arrived in Russia on a stopover after leaving Lima during the first days of June. I stayed in Paris, Madrid and Rome, before moving on to Russia. 

Peru boasted some of the most impressive supporters at the World Cup. [image: Wilder Jan]

Initially, my trip was planned with friends I had in Peru. Since I have a group that I created on Facebook, Peruvians to the Russia 2018 World Cup, which had more than 10,000 users. We planned in advance to travel with many friends, but we could not go back together. On each route that I went I met more people and others already knew me from the group I had on Facebook, an adventure began when all these Peruvian friends and fans went to Russia 2018.

Even though Peru were mathematically out by their last group-stage game, it couldn’t dampen the spirits of their fans. [image: Wilder Jan]

Likewise, I already planned my trip with my girlfriend, who is from Colombia, and we met at the Kazan headquarters and went together to the game of Colombia vs Poland.

How did it feel to be part of that Peruvian fanbase, particularly given Peru’s 36-year absence from the World Cup?

We had endured a bad streak that for so many years we could not go to a World Cup. Many of us spent our lives dreaming of going to a World Cup, going to Russia 2018. After so many years of not qualifying it felt almost impossible, and when we qualified, it was a dream come true. My generation have never seen Peru in a World Cup! The country celebrated the qualification – adults and children took to the streets to celebrate this moment.

Peru boasted some of the most impressive supporters at the World Cup. [image: Wilder Jan]

Many of us already knew each other and getting together in this World Cup was a nostalgic experience. We all met for the first time in Saransk, and we lived the World Cup party, the whole street was dressed in white and red, an immense happiness that I could live and enjoy with the best fans in the world. We were all brothers. We met people who have became lifelong friends because of that tournament. 

Tournament highlight: 

The greatest memory was Saransk, that moment when we finally appreciated that Peru was once again participating in a World Cup. We saw the true Peruvian fans, our brothers, with humility and education we won the entire world with the feat of our fans. On this day we all celebrate our official return to the World Cups, people mobilised to Saransk, by plane, train, bus, trucks and all means of transportation, however they could get there. There were no tickets, but the Peruvian fans managed and we all came to that first match, a match that will be remembered in all of our history.

It’s safe to say Sochi saw plenty of colour. [image: Wilder Jan]

Tell your story from Russia:

On this trip to Russia, I have endless anecdotes…! I’ll give you my top 3.

  1. Getting from Moscow to Saransk was very difficult. I met two Peruvians, one who lived in Spain and who had been driving a van. The whole night we went on this journey; we drove the vehicle taking turns. We arrived in Saransk at noon, we arrived sleepy, but we got changed and joined the big Peru party.
There was little doubt who Wilder Jan was supporting between Peru and Denmark in Saransk… [image: Wilder Jan]
  1. Before the second Peru game we went to a shopping centre. We had no tickets; all Peruvians were looking for tickets and no one had any that they could sell us. Lucky me, we went to sit on a bench and two abandoned tickets appeared! We gave notice to the shopping centre, but nobody claimed them… It was only one hour to kick off and in the end the shopping centre gave those two tickets to us. We felt so blessed that we were able to enter the France vs Peru match.
Wilder Jan and his girlfriend were just one example of football bringing people from different nations together. [image: Wilder Jan]
  1. In Kazan, my girlfriend had got tickets for the Colombia vs Poland match, but I could not get it. She entered with her brothers. I left feeling sad and went to look for any spare tickets. A Peruvian saw me with my shirt, and he called me out of everyone, and I told him that my girlfriend was inside, and he said take this entry. He gave me the ticket and he told me “Peruvians are brothers, you can join that party!”


Stephen (23)

Games attended:

France 2-1 Australia

Denmark 1-1 Australia

Australia 0-2 Peru

France 4-3 Argentina

Travelling to Russia:

Initially I arrived by myself. I would meet up with friends at each city I went to. They would all go back to Moscow, but I had a slightly different itinerary where I would go direct to cities where Australia were playing. It led to some interesting solo train journeys!

Kazan hosted some thrilling games – France edging Argentina, South Korea stunning reigning champions Germany – as well as providing a spectacular backdrop. [image: Stephen Ganavas]

You finished bottom in a tough group. What were your expectations going into the tournament and what were your views on how they performed? What do Australia need to do in future to get through the group stages like in 2006?

I wasn’t super optimistic. This was a team that had struggled enormously in qualifying and had relied for far too long on the goal-scoring abilities of an ageing Tim Cahill. Against Honduras in the play-offs, we relied on a hat-trick comprised of penalties and free-kicks from Mile Jedinak to seal our place at the World Cup, and likewise at the tournament itself it was the only way we were able to score our two goals. That being said, we played pretty well against France and Denmark, but simply lacked the cutting edge in the final third to take advantage.

Sochi proved to be one of the most popular host cities, with the Australians taking over the atmosphere for periods of the tournament. [image: Stephen Ganavas]

Looking forward, we’ve got some good players coming through. Awer Mabil is continuing to develop nicely at Midtjylland. Riley McGree had a monster season with Adelaide United. Daniel Arzani is hopefully over the ACL injury he suffered post-World Cup and needs a really good loan to propel him back into the Socceroos squad. Then there’s also guys like Harry Souttar, Ajdin Hrustic and Thomas Deng that have come into the squad lately and done good things, while there are a few Young Socceroos such as Noah Botic and Adelaide United’s Toure brothers, Al-Hassan and Mohamed, who look set to elect to represent Australia in the future.

Tournament highlight: 

Definitely seeing Benjamin Pavard’s worldie live. I was sitting directly opposite where he shot the ball from, so I could see the trajectory of the shot perfectly the whole way. Felt like it was one of those moments that I will just never, ever forget. I was sitting next to a group of Argentina fans and everyone was just shell shocked and couldn’t believe what they had just seen.

Australia came within nine minutes of claiming a point against the eventual winners France in Kazan, but still went home empty-handed. [image: Mathieu Goldschmidt]

Tell your story from Russia:

I think it was a pretty unforgettable experience in every way. Firstly, the country is amazing. Saint Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited and everyone I met in the country was really nice. For example, on a 40+ hour train trip from Samara to Sochi I was placed in a train cabin with a Russian family of three; they constantly were offering me (despite the language barrier) food/water throughout the journey. Likewise, on another solo trip I was offered lots of vodka by some travelling Central Asian workers. I think I travelled to the tournament so fixated on the games that I didn’t even think about how much fun I was going to have outside of the stadiums.

Gamedays were incredible with the early morning Burger King breakfast, served with beers of course, before joining in with the other Australian fans pre-and-post-game for some more pints and a few renditions of Waltzing Matilda.

A low-scoring group could so easily have seen Australia edge through, but it was their opponents on this day, Denmark, who finished second. [image: Stephen Ganavas]

Apart from that, a massive group of Socceroos fans converging around a tennis umpire’s chair after the Denmark match and singing songs for an hour post-game was also amazing. Showed a level of passion I wasn’t sure our fans had.

Thank you to Mathieu, Lasse, Wilder and Stephen for their contributions to this article. If you enjoyed this then please come back next week to read about the stories from Group D, including the celebration of a team in need of a pick-me-up, a free ticket gifted by some hospitable Peruvians and one fan who loved his trip to Russia so much, he ended up going to the World Cup three times…

Read the rest of the series here:


Group A

Group B

More articles
7 responses to “32 Sides to Every Story: Group C – France, Denmark, Peru & Australia”
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