Group E features France, Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. While France and Switzerland should be the two favorites, they might not want to take Honduras and Ecuador too lightly. Let’s see how all four teams shape up heading to Brazil. Who will advance to the round of 16 to face the winners of Group F? The answer seems like it will be pretty straight forward.
National Anthem: The Swiss Psalm
Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Best Showing at A World Cup: Quarter-Finals in 1934, 1938, 1954
Switzerland finished first in their relatively weak qualifying group and pitched shutouts in seven of their ten matches. They rode that momentum to the top seed in this group, although few give them a chance to be better than France. Last time around, they shockingly beat Spain 1-0 in the first match of the group stage, but ended up bottoming out and not even making it out of their group. This time around, they’re hoping for different results.
As we mentioned before, the Swiss play excellent defense, and that is their big strength. They also boast a lot of youth, as they feature several guys that won the 2007 Under-17 World Cup and reached the final of the Under-21 cup in 2011. Their key player is Kosovo born midfielder Granit Xhaka, who has been compared to the great German player Bastian Schweinsteiger; albeit by his own coach. He’s joined by 22-year old Striker Haris Seferovic, who is renown in Switzerland for scoring the game winning goal in that U-17 World Cup in 2007. Seferovic is among a few guys that Switzerland is looking to to replace retired all-time scoring leader Alexander Frei, who is yet to be properly replaced. Also watch out for Stephan Lichtsteiner, who is nicknamed “Forrest Gump,” apparently because he runs like a sonofabitch, and not because he keeps baking ass first into poignant historical situations while seemingly not understanding the importance of such events.
If they play their defensive game, and one of their youngsters steps up, they could make it out of this group along with France.
National Anthem: Salve oh Patria
Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Best Showing at A World Cup: Round of 16, 2006
Some people think that Ecuador only qualified because they play in Quito, which is roughly 9,000 feet above sea level. That’s a really tough elevation to walk around in if you’re not used to it, let alone play competitive fútbol. Ecuador ended up with 7 wins and 1 draw on their home turf, while only managing 3 draws and 5 losses on the road. Things that make you go hmmm…. right?
On a more serious note, they are trying to overcome the death of striker Christian Benitez, who died of a heart attack at just 27 years old while on the pitch in Qatar. Captain Antonio Valencia, who plays his club ball for Manchester United of the EPL, will try to rally his team in Brazil. Another guy to look out for is Jefferson Montero, who plays on the left side and is known for his speed, creativeness and deadly finishing.
I don’t think Ecuador has the chops to get out of this group. That being said, if France reverts to their early qualifying form, and Swtizerland disappoints again, Ecuador could definitely sneak into the round of 16.
National Anthem: The Marseillaise
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Best Showing at A World Cup: Winners 1998
2010 in South Africa was a complete embarrassment for France. The team didn’t make it out of the group stage, and at one point there was a near mutiny against former head coach Raymond Domenech. Not surprisingly, Domenech is no longer at the helm. That being said, France almost didn’t even make this World Cup. In fact, they came within 90 minutes of being eliminated on the last day of qualifying. They were facing elimination after a 2-0 loss on the road against Ukraine in the first leg of the home and home playoff, but miraculously rallied to beat Ukraine 3-0 in France to win the aggregate 3-2. Le phew! (That’s French for… “phew!”)
Anyway, it is hard to figure out just what to expect from France when they get to Brazil. The four years leading up to that last game in France had been a nightmare for this squad. Did something finally click when their backs were against the wall, or did they just get lucky and inspired by their home crowd?
On paper, and despite not being seeded higher, France should be the favorite to win this group. Their very talented bunch of players is led by Franck Ribéry, who is one of Europe’s best players despite looking like a Bond villain (I bet the caption above makes sense now). When you throw in guys like Karim Benzema, Patrice Evra and youngster Paul Pogba, they should be tough–assuming they get their shit together.
National Anthem: Himno Nacional de Honduras
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Best Showing at A World Cup: Group stage: 1982, 2010
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that we won’t be seeing Honduras in the knockout stages of this World Cup. In fact, I’m gonna go further out on that limb and say that they won’t even get any wins. Honduras have never won a World Cup game, losing once with two draws in the group stage in 1982 and drawing once with two losses in 2010, and that trend will continue in 2014. They will most likely lose to France and Switzerland, but hey… maybe they can tie Ecuador.
If we’re talking key players, American fans will recognize Jerry Bengtson‘s name from the roster of the New England Revolution. While Bengtson might not be taking the MLS by storm (only 4 goals since joining in 2012), he has 19 goals in 41 career games with the national team. Honduras also boasts one of the bigger strikers in the sport in Carlo Costly, who is 6’4″ and could be a dangerous guy on corners to the middle of the box.
That being said, I did find a cool story about how Honduras was once invaded by El Salvador over a few testy World Cup qualifying games… OK only sort of, but check out the story!
I think my fellow hispanics are going to be going home early in this World Cup. Sorry Honduras and Ecuador, it’s going to be France and Switzerland at the top of the group standings. At least your flight home isn’t as long as theirs.
Featured image courtesy of: Michael Buholzer/Reuters
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