With France heavily tipped to top Group C, both Denmark and Peru will feel the second qualifying spot is very much up for grabs.
Both teams needed the play-offs to qualify, with Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Christian Eriksen’s second-leg hat-trick inspiring Age Hareide’s men against Republic of Ireland. Peru meanwhile beat New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate to advance to their first World Cup since 1982.
The Danes, who have not lost a competitive game since October 2016, arrive on the back of a couple of strong results, drawing 0-0 to Sweden and beating Mexico 2-0.
Los Incas were also held to a goalless stalemate by Sweden but overcame Saudi Arabia 3-0, who were smashed 5-0 by Russia in the opening game of the World Cup.
Denmark relying on Eriksen
Despite missing out in Brazil four years ago, Denmark are the 12th highest ranked team in the World Cup and will confident of reaching the last-16 stage.
However if they are to shock the world and get far in the competition it will likely be because of one man. Christian Eriksen.
The magician scored 11 goals in qualifying, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, and will be at the heart of any attack Denmark mount. Even coach Hareide recognises his importance: “When we get the ball, the first thing we do is to look for Christian”.
Whether unlocking the opponents defence or firing one in from range, Eriksen, who will start in his preferred ‘No.10’ role, will need to be on form.
However it’s not all about Eriksen. Denmark boast an impressive backline that features Chelsea centre-back Andreas Christensen, who has benched Brazil international David Luiz for the Blues, captain Simon Kjaer known for his remarkable reading of the game, and Leicester shot-stopper Kasper Schemeichel who managed eight clean sheets for the Foxes last season. In fact, since booking their place in Russia, Denmark have yet to concede a goal.
The experienced William Kvist will protect the defence allowing Thomas Delaney, now of Borussia Dortmund, to advance forward and support Eriksen and either Nicolai Jorgensen, who netted 10 Eredivisie goals for Feyenoord, or young prospect Kasper Dolberg up front.
Peru will be hoping to make up for last time as they compete in only their fifth World Cup and arrive on the back off a 15 game unbeaten streak, one of the best out of all the teams at the tournament.
Additionally they have conceded only once in their last seven games and are considered dark horses for advancing even further than the group stages.
The South American outfit have even come up against strong opposition such as Croatia and Iceland and still been victorious, so Ricardo Gareca will be confident his side can string a shock or two in Russia.
Despite the results suggesting otherwise, the buildup hasn’t been all plain-sailing. Record goalscorer and captain Paulo Guerrero was initially sentenced to a 12 month ban after failing a drugs test, which was then reduced to six months.
The ban was then increased to 14 months and then, a fortnight before the launch of the tournament, an appeal was made remarkably meaning the 34-year-old is allowed to take part while it is being considered.
The Flamengo striker’s return is a welcome one as his absence very nearly cost Peru booking their place in the finals.
As well as Guerrero, Peru also hold rejuvenated winger Jefferson Farfan within their ranks, who scored 11 goals for Lokomotiv Moscow as they won their first league title for 14 years.
Peru (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese; Miguel Trauco, Alberto Rodriguez, Christian Ramos, Luis Advincula; Yoshimar Yotun, Renato Tapia; Christian Cueva, Jefferson Farfan, Andre Carrillo; Paulo Guerrero
Denmark (4-2-3-1): Kasper Schmeichel; Jens Larsen, Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer, Henrik Dalsgaard; Thomas Delaney, William Kvist; Pione Sisto, Christian Eriksen, Yussuf Poulsen; Nicolai Jorgensen