Second meets first in Salvador on Friday, and with both sides looking much too strong in Group E so far, it may be a case for both sides wanting the draw – although, Karim Benzema and his French team looked strong during their opening game versus Honduras on Sunday.
Paul Pogba ran the show in midfield until his tussle with Honduras’ Wilson Palacios, resulting in a yellow card and Didier Deschamps bringing the young Juventus midfielder off early in the second half. Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann looked lively and provided trickery on the flanks, but it was Karim Benzema who led by example wearing the famous no.10 for Les Blues, scoring two goals and forcing the Honduras keeper into an own goal.
Despite going 1-0 down against Ecuador, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland side bossed the game, with Ricardo Rodriguez roaming free on the left hand side and Xherdan Shaqiri finding plenty of space between the lines to hurt the Ecuadorian back four.
Team News and Key Statistics
Both sides came through their opening matches without any serious injuries, although Patrice Evra was treated briefly in the game versus Honduras, the Manchester United left-back carried on.
- Switzerland and France last met in June 2006 – the opening game of that year’s World Cup – the game ended 0-0; their only previous encounter at the World Cup.
- France are unbeaten in their last five games against the Swiss (W2 D3).
- The last three games between the two sides have all been draws, producing three goals.
- France (70.8%) and Switzerland (62.16%) both enjoyed over 60% possession in their opening games of WC2014.
- Karim Benzema has seven goals in his last seven caps – becoming the first French player to score two in a game against Honduras since Zizu scored in the 1998 final.
Key Players – Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri and France’s Karim Benzema
While Ricardo Rodriguez stole the show against Ecuador on Sunday, it can be argued that Didier Deschamps will not allow his side to give the young Wolfsburg defender the freedom that he had against Ecuador, with Mathieu Debuchy, Valbuena and Paul Pogba all operating down that right hand side.
Ottmar Hitzfeld will look upon Xherdan Shaqiri to provide the creativity for the Swiss against France, who will hopefully look to find space between the lines of where Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi operate.
The Bayern Munich player attempted the most dribbles for Switzerland (3), while attempting the most shots (5) and averaged a WhoScored.com rating of 7.7 – second only to Ricardo Rodriguez who assisted two goals for Switzerland.
Shaqiri looks to be the most direct player for Switzerland, who will look to drive at the defence and put the likes of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho on the back foot.
France’s number 10, Karim Benzema, led the way for his side against Honduras on Sunday – bagging two goals and a man of the match performance, while some pundits likened the Real Madrid striker to have an effect like Zinedine Zidane (really?), Benzema will look to keep his feet on the ground, and get France through to the last 16 by topping the group.
Karim Benzema had over a third of France’s total shots (7/20) – scoring two goals, and averaged a WhoScored.com rating of 8.9.
With Franck Ribery missing through injury, former players like Patrick Viera and Thierry Henry, currently pundits at the ITV and BBC respectively, stated France needed a talisman, a player to look up to when the game ins’t going their way – it seems Karim Benzema will look to pick up this burden.
Prediction and predicted line-up
France 3-1 Switzerland
The middle may be fairly congested in this match between Switzerland and France, so width will be crucial to both sides if either side are to record a win to take them through to the next round. Evra and Debuchy will need to push up if Griezmann and Valbuena cut inside. Although the French full-backs will have to be wary of Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner who will look to provide as much width as they can.