Switzerland and Honduras are reunited for the second straight FIFA World Cup™ in Group E at Brazil 2014. The Swiss will fancy their chances of making it through to the knockout phase alongside a star-studded France, world champions in 1998. South American outsiders Ecuador, who struggled to finish in a direct qualifying spot from their preliminary campaign, boast a speedy and muscular style of football as do CONCACAF hopefuls Honduras, who famously beat Mexico at their fabled Estadio Azteca en route to South America.
Switzerland stormed to the top of their European qualifying section with seven more points than closest chasers Iceland, and they find themselves in a negotiable group once again. France pushed world and European champions Spain all the way in their preliminary campaign before sweating it out in a play-off with Ukraine. Despite their troubles, Didier Deschamps’ France side contains some of the world’s top players, and Honduras and Ecuador, who barely edged Uruguay to fourth place in the South American marathon, will be wary of the threat they pose.
Players to watch
Granit Hxaka (SUI), Xherdan Shaquiri (SUI), Valon Behrami (SUI), Hugo Lloris (FRA), Patrice Evra (FRA), Franck Ribery (FRA), Karim Benzema (FRA), Walter Ayovi (ECU), Antonia Valencia (ECU), Wilson Palacios (HON), Roger Espinoza (HON).
The crunch match
Switzerland-France: While Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland finished top of their qualifying group, most pundits will point to France as the team to beat in the section. If the French can avoid the kind of internal squabbles that plagued their 2010 run, and if the Swiss can add consistent goalscoring to a solid defence that conceded just six time in qualifying, both will be hopeful of qualifying.
A look back
Switzerland 0-0 Honduras, 25 June 2010, Mangaung/Bloemfontein
The only other time the Swiss and Honduras met in FIFA World Cup action came at South Africa 2010, and it was a game to forget. After starting the tournament on a high by beating Spain, Switzerland ran out of gas and goals and the scoreless draw against the already eliminated Catrachos was a study in frustration. Both sides now have another chance to wipe the slate clean and improve on their previous encounter.
Did you know?
Switzerland are the only team to have beaten Spain over the course of La Roja’s dominant run to two consecutive UEFA EURO titles and one World Cup. Finishing both EURO 2008 and 2012 as undefeated champions, Spain were taught a lesson in discipline and rigour by the Swiss at South Africa 2010 in Durban. With hardly any possession at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Swiss turned precious few counter-attacks and chances on goal into a 1-0 victory, thanks to a messy strike from Gelson Fernandes. "The biggest night in the history of Swiss football,” was what striker Blaise Nkufo called it. But in the end, Spain still hoisted the World Cup crown while the Swiss tumbled out at the group stage.
1 – the number of teams in Group E with experience of reaching a World Cup Final or semi-final. France were crowned champions on home soil back in 1998, while none of the three other competing teams have made it past the quarter-finals. Switzerland went to the last eight as hosts in 1954 and twice more booked passage to the Round of 16 (1994 and 2006). Ecuador reached the Round of 16 once in 2006, while Honduras haven’t graduated past the group stage in their two previous visits to the World Cup finals (1982 and 2010).
Tirage au sort pour le Brésil , mieux c'est dur
— Raymond Domenech (@Raymon_Domenech) December 6, 2013
Final Draw for the World Cup – we couldn’t have asked for better.