2014 FIFA WORLD CUP PREVIEWS – GROUP E

Switzerland.

Switzerland are World Cup regulars, but have not qualified for the quarter finals of the tournament since they hosted it back in 1954. Switzerland’s qualifying campaign for Brazil was convincing as they came top in their group whilst remaining unbeaten throughout.

In Ottmar Hitzfeld, they have a highly successful and respected coach. He is very precise with his tactics, with discipline being a fundamental of his methodology. Hitzfeld has fashioned a team comfortable both on and off the ball with a midfield containing remarkable work rate and industry. The major concern is that they don’t have a proven goal scorer at the highest level.

Xherdan Shaqiri is the one carrying the Swiss hopes offensively. The Bayern Munich man, a dynamic playmaker who does not command a starting XI place in Pep Guardiola’s team, but donning the Swiss jersey seems to bring out the best in him. Shaqiri is a player in the mould of his Bayern Munich teammate Arjen Robben. Left-footed, playing from the right-hand-side, much of his game is about beating his man, cutting inside and unleashing left-footed efforts towards goal. switzerland

The group stage of the World Cup is a big step up from the qualifying group. But they have no fear and should play with freedom and vigour. Expect the Swiss to reach the last 16 but no further.

 

 

 

ECUADOR

Even with one of the easiest possible groups, Ecuador will still struggle to match their best-ever World Cup result of a second-round exit in 2006. Despite qualifying with relative ease – as they so often do with the significant advantage of altitude on their side – now the playing field is level it is difficult to see how La Tri can make inroads into a group featuring two strong European sides. Implementing their fast and intense style of play, Ecuador will be a tricky team to come up against, especially if their talented wingers are on song. ecuador

Their key man Antonio Valencia is an extremely talented winger who has it in him to cause big problems for opposition fullbacks but he is somewhat inconsistent. He has skill, pace as well as being an excellent crosser of the ball. Over the past few years for Manchester United, Valencia has proven that on his day he can be one of the best wingers in the English Premier League. But an inability to be productive consistently makes him a hugely frustrating asset.

An overall lack of organisation, a lack of talented defenders and central midfielders implies that, while they may be capable of causing a large upset, it is doubtful they will progress past the group.

 
FRANCE

franceA fifth consecutive World Cup outing for Les Bleus, who have fluctuated between finalists and first-round flops in the last four tournaments. World champions at home in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, the French failed to get beyond the opening stage in both 2002 and 2010. France qualified via the play-offs and required a massive game to turn around a 2-0 first leg deficit against Ukraine.

After an atrocious World Cup last time round and since taking over in 2012, Deschamps has fashioned a fluid 4-3-3 formation, with the primary goal of using France’s athletic players. The French deep pool of talent is extremely enviable for the majority of the nations partaking in Brazil. They have exceptional cover in every position, with every player active in successful teams in the upper reaches of major European leagues.

As usual, France have a plethora of attacking options but it could be Karim Benzema who holds the key. The Champions League winner with Real Madrid won’t be short of confidence. Benzema will be required to carry on his club form in the Blue shirt for France.

Les Blues will need to eradicate their constant lapses in concentration, which have impeded them in big games. Not to mention maintaining a harmonious team spirit in what is an often fractious group of players. France will either implode or explode in Brazil. They should progress from this group with relative comfort.

HONDURAS

hondurasLos Catrachos qualified for their second consecutive World Cup finals. Heading into what will be the nation’s third World Cup, their primary objective will be to win a game. In their six World Cup outings to date, that has escaped them: having drawn three times and lost on a further three occasions. This time around, Honduras will face a tough opening match against group- favorites France, while Ecuador and the Swiss should at least give Suarez and his side an opportunity at three points.

The game with Ecuador is especially intriguing considering Suarez led Ecuador to the round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup. In order for Honduras to have any success this summer the team must find a way to score goals, a task that will fall to Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson.

This squad certainly has the personnel capable of picking up that maiden victory. They have a host of experience within their team, including long-standing Premier League players like Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa. Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre is arguably their best player and his blistering forays up and down the left flank will be the Honduran’s primary attacking threat.

Whilst Izaguirre is probably the best player in this Honduras side, veteran Palacios remains the most important. Having found himself in the Premier League wilderness for a couple of seasons at Stoke City, Palacios has seen much more game time under current boss Mark Hughes. At his peak, the Stoke City man was one of the most ferocious and athletic defensive midfielders in the Premier League. His performance levels have dwindled significantly, but he has recaptured some form this season and remains the heartbeat of this Honduran team.

Manager Luis Fernando Suarez lead Ecuador into the last 16 back in 2006, but the people of Honduras would surely settle for that first ever victory. Anything surpassing that would be a huge bonus and massive surprise.

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