France rocketed from outsiders to FIFA World Cup™ contenders with a scintillating 5-2 defeat of Switzerland in Salvador. Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko were on the score-sheet as Didier Deschamps’ side made all but sure of a place in the Round of 16, before wonder-strikes from Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka gave Swiss memorable consolations from an enrapturing encounter.
France required 45 minutes, and a penalty, to break down Honduras in Porto Alegre first time out. By that time on Brazil’s vast east coast they had already spurned a spot-kick but scored three.
The fully outstretched leg of a sliding Johan Djourou denied Benzema a tap-in on 16 minutes, but it would only preserve deadlock for seconds. From Mathieu Valbuena’s resulting corner, Giroud sprung impressively and his header took a deflection and went towards the top corner. Ricardo Rodriguez was on the line, ideally placed to head the ball clear, but Diego Benaglio hurled himself through the air and tipped the ball away from his defender and into the back of the net.
The pair exchanged agitated glances. Moments later their opponents were exchanging animated hugs. Valon Behrami needlessly gave the ball away to Benzema, who raced through the Switzerland half and slid the ball into Blaise Matuidi. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder took a touch and buried a low drive in at the near post.
Switzerland, to their credit, didn’t throw in the towel. Granit Xhaka had a goal ruled out for offside, before the same player stormed through the midfield and, from distance, unleashed a low drive which Hugo Lloris pushed away. The rebound fell invitingly to Xherdan Shaqiri, but his shot was handsomely pushed round the post by the fingertips of the France No1.
That brief burst of momentum was arrested just after the half-hour. Djourou tripped Benzema when the France striker was going nowhere. The 26-year-old took the penalty himself, only for Benaglio to dive south-east and make an excellent save. The rebound presented Yohan Cabaye with an almost-open goal, but he somehow slammed the ball against the bar.
It was 3-0 before the break, though. Giroud accelerated clear of his marker down the left and, unselfishly, squared the ball perfectly for Valbuena to tap home.
Switzerland started the second half brightly and, after fine work from Stephan Lichtsteiner down the right, Admr Mehmedi would have had a gilt-edged chance had it not been for his poor control, which allowed Lloris to put him off.
France promptly punished them. Paul Pogba, on for the impressive Giroud, used the outside of his boot to arch a pass into the stride of Benzema, who slotted it past Benaglio for his third goal of the tournament.
Evra then fired over after a sumptuous passing move uncorked the Swiss once more, before Benzema slipped Moussa Sissoko in and he guided the ball into the bottom corner with unerring accuracy to make it 5-0.
Switzerland would have been forgiven for praying for the final whistle, but they weren’t done. First, Dzemaili fizzed a stunning free-kick through a French wall and into the bottom corner, before a thumping volley from Xhaka rounded off a game of sheer entertainment.