The last time France and Switzerland met in the World Cup was in 2006. Despite some hype by neutrals that the fixture would be terrific, it ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw that failed to excite. The two European nations renew acquaintances in Salvador in a critical Group E match, eight years later.
Both teams won their opening fixture in this World Cup. France scored a comfortable 3-0 over a thuggish Honduras side that was more interested in maiming their opposition, than playing football. Switzerland recorded a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador, as Haris Seferovic scored in the third minute of stoppage time, to give the Swiss the points.
Switzerland lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Ecuador, and the feeling is they will stick with what works. With his heroic goal, Seferovic may have earned a place on the team sheet. The Real Sociedad striker showed more life against Ecuador than Josip Drmic, who did get the start for the Rossocrociati. Admir Mehmedi is another option at forward. The SC Freiburg striker scored Switzerland’s first goal against Ecuador, and also showed spark on the pitch.
The talismanic figure in the midfield is Xherdan Shaqiri. The Bayern Munich midfielder is the on-field general for Switzerland, with his exquisite passing and deft touch. Shaqiri is vital for Switzerland and he will need to be at his best for the Swiss to get a result. Valentin Stocker and Granit Xhaka are expected to join Shaqiri in the attacking midfielder spots.
Gokhan Inler anchors the midfield. The Napoli holding midfielder will be asked to contain the French attack, in particular Benzema. It will be difficult, but Inler should relish the challenge. Valon Behrami should join Inler in laying deep at the centre of the pitch.
The back four did concede chances against Ecuador, but came up with key tackles at critical times. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Johan Djourou, Steve von Bergen and Ricardo Rodriguez will need to be assertive against a French side that is growing in confidence.
Diego Benaglio should start between the sticks. The Wolfsburg keeper is a fine goalie, who had a solid game against Ecuador.
France lined up in a 4-3-3 formation against Honduras, and there no signs of them changing their tactics. Karim Benzema’s brace, plus his header which caused an own goal for Honduras, made for an impressive performance from the Real Madrid star. Don’t be surprised if Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud is flanking Benzema on the left wing. Mathieu Valbana is the likely third forward.
Paul Pogba is the talismanic figure in the midfield, but the Juventus playmaker needs to stay disciplined. Pogba is sitting with a yellow card and another booking will see him suspended. Blaise Matuidi or Moussa Sissoko will be the other attacking midfielder. Yohan Cabaye is the holding midfielder but like Pogba, the Paris Saint-Germain defensive stalwart was booked against Honduras, thus he needs to stay in control of his emotions or risk suspension.
Patrice Evra was also cautioned against the dirty Hondurans. The Manchester United left back is known for his physical play, but he may need to take a step back and use guile over brawn. Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane and Mathieu Debuchy were solid against Honduras, but will face a much sterner opponent in the Swiss.
Hugo Lloris didn’t see much work against Honduras. The Tottenham keeper is expected to be busier against a team that will be interested in playing actual football. That in itself will be refreshing.
This has draw written all over it. But unlike 2006, there will be goals. Both teams have choice attacking options and won’t be afraid to go for goal. The French have the advantage in terms of goal difference, so they can afford to sit back, and wait for the counter attack. The Swiss are well-organized and don’t make too many mistakes. There’s enough skill for a goal apiece but that will be it. A 1-1 draw is the call here.
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