World Cup Group E: Switzerland v France

By on June 20, 2014

Both Switzerland and France won their opening fixtures of this year’s World Cup and now they face each other in the 2nd round of fixtures with both teams looking to book their place in the knockout phase with a second successive win.

Switzerland gathered all three points from their opening game but it was not entirely a walk in the park. Ecuador took the Swiss to their limit and looked set to cause an upset in the opening minutes of the game. Enner Valencia opened the scoring for Ecuador with a header and it seemes as if the Swiss had no answer. The 1st half ended with Ecuador maintaining their lead. However, a master stroke from Ottmar Hitzfeld got Switzerland back into the game as he subbed on Mehmedi at half time who equalized for the Swiss within three minutes of his arrival. The game looked set to end in a draw when another 2nd half substitute Haris Seferovic  scored the winner for the Swiss with 30 seconds left to play. Switzerland were impressive for most parts of their opening game but their main problem was the lack of chances created as they were not afforded any space in the final third. The likes of Granit Xhaka and Stokes had virtually no effect on the game and if these players have an off day against the French, then they will be punished severely as although Ecuador were equally wasteful in the final third, France are another story and with the players they possess, they will cause a lot of damage if the Swiss fail to get a grip over the game.

After winning the opening game, they have a great chance to book their place in the knockout phase if they can manage a win in this game. Another three points will all but confirm their progression to the next round. Furthermore, it will also put them in pole position to finish top of the group. Winning the group is something that the team will really fight for as it means a knockout phase meeting with the runner up of group F which is always an advantageous position to be in. Their next game will be against Honduras and therefore if they win this one, they will have a great chance to finish above France who will play against Ecuador in their final game.

One thing Ottmar Hitzfeld will have to think hard about is whether to start with the same players that started against Ecuador or reward the players that made an impact after coming on from the bench. Mehmedi and Seferovic were both crucial after their 2nd half substitutions and Hitzfeld might be tempted to hand them a start in this game. But the reports suggest that the coach will stick with his line-up from the opening apart from one change. Djourou had a really off game against Ecuador and it is believed that Fabian Schar will start this game in his place.

France faced Honduras in their opening fixture and it was an emphatic performance from Les Bleus as they ran out 3-0 winners on the night. It was a very physical game from both sides but most of the lunges came from Honduras. Wilson Palacios was sent off for a rough push on Paul Pogba which earned the French a penalty through which Karim Benzema scored their opener. France soon doubled their lead thanks to an own goal before Karim Benzema scored their third of the night with a fantastic strike. France had real intent in their attacks and they were dangerous every time they went forward. Didier Deschamps will have a couple of concerns regarding his defence however as it seems he has yet to decide his best center back duo. The partnership of Sakho and Varane seemed vulnerable at times even against Honduras and they must ensure a solid backline if they are to attack freely against the Swiss as Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side have the ability to break down any defence in the world on their day.

France face the same proposition as do Switzerland ahead of this game. They have won their opening game as well and another three points from this one will ensure their place in the knockout phase. France will have to face a relatively tougher opponent in Ecuador, in their next game and so three points from this one will give them a comfortable advantage over the top of the table. Finishing top of the group will be Deschamp’s priority as it means facing a relatively weaker side in the knockout stage.

Franck Ribery left a huge void in that French attacking line-up after he was ruled out of the World Cup before the tournament even kicked off. Antoine Griezmann started the last game against Honduras on the left wing and put in a very decent shift. Karim Benzema also had one of the peformances of his life in a Blue shirt, against Honduras. Both are expected to keep their place in the line-up. There was some news regarding Olivier Giroud in the press recently that he will be handed a start in this game. That could mean Benzema would be shifted to the left with Griezmann sitting on the bench. However, such a huge tactical change is very unlikely for this game.

Switzerland will most likely start with the same team that featured against Ecuador apart from one change. Djourou will probably start this one on the bench and Fabian Schar will start in the heart of defence. Mehmedi and Seferovic performed very well after their appearance from the bench but they will probably not be handed a start in this one either. Drmic, Stokes and Xhaka are all expected to start as in the opening game.

France have no injury worries ahead of the game and Didier Deschamps will likely name an unchanged starting XI for this game.

Switzerland and France last met on 13 June 2006; it was in Stuttgart in their opening game of that year’s World Cup. The game ended 0-0; it was their only previous encounter at the World Cup. Switzerland are yet to beat France in a competitive game (qualifiers + major tournaments), drawing three and losing one (Euro 2004 group stages). France are unbeaten in their last five games against Switzerland (W2 D3). The Nati’s last win against their neighbours dates back to 27 May 1992 in a friendly played in Lausanne (2-1). The last three games between Switzerland and France have all been drawn and have only produced two goals.

DATE: June 20, 2014

TIME: 8:00 PM BST

VENUE: Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia

REFEREE: B. Kuipers

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Switzerland (4-2-3-1):- Benaglio; Rodriguez, Bergen, Schar, Lichsteiner; Behrami, Inler; Stokes, Xhaka, Shaqiri; Drmic
France (4-3-3):- Lloris; Evra, Sakho, Varane, Debuchy; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Griezmann, Benzema, Valbuena

LAST MATCH:
Switzerland:- 2-1 vs Ecuador
France:- 3-0 vs Honduras

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Switzerland 1-2 France

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