Switzerland v Ecuador
A potentially controversial game between Switzerland and Ecuador was won by a 93rd minute Seferovic goal to give the Swiss all 3 points in their opening game.
- Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Benaglio, Lichensteiner, Djourou, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Behrami, Inler, Shaqiri, Xhaka, Stocker(Mehmedi 46′), Drmić (Seferovic 75′)
- Scorers: Mehmedi 48′, Seferovic 90+3′
- Ecuador (4-4-2): Dominguez, Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayovi, Valencia, Gruezo, Noboa, Montero (Rojas 77′), Enner Valencia, Caicedo (Arroyo 70′)
- Scorers: Enner Valencia 22′
Pre-match the Swiss were strong favourites but there were many labelling Ecuador as a dark horse of Group E. Switzerland had qualified easily and were unbeaten both all their qualification games as well as pre world cup friendlies, this meant going in to the world cup expectations on this team were high. Ecuador however had a much harder pre world cup after just avoiding the AFC v CONMEBOL play-off by goal difference, however they turned the heads of many who had dismissed them with strong performances against Netherlands and England. They are a side with a lot of pace on the wing and a big physical presence up front who play a primarily counter attacking style football, Switzerland on the other hand focus more on passing play and working the ball up the pitch.
Ecuador got off to a quick start from kick off and by the 5th minute had already won 2 corners both of which didn’t produce anything, from there on in it was Switzerland who were dominating the game with the majority of possession. The problem was they weren’t working hard enough to break down the Ecuador defence and they only player that seemed capable of creating anything for the attacking players was Gokhan Inler. The first goal came in 22nd minute when a free kick was awarded to Ecuador in a dangerous area, it was left-back Ayovi who delivered the ball into the area and a horrible piece of defending from the Swiss meant a poorly marked Enner Valencia could head in to make it 1-0. For the rest of the second half it was Switzerland who again had the majority of the ball, the problem was that the majority of their chances had players resorting to taking long range shots instead of looking for the final ball. But it was obvious that the Ecuador defence was looking rather shaky and this was something that the Swiss needed to take advantage of.
Evidently manager Ottmar Hitzfeld had also noticed this and as the second half begun he brought on Admir Mehmedi for Valentin Stocker, who had been having very quiet game on the left hand side. And the 23 year old had made his mark just 2 minutes after coming on as he took advantage of Ecuador’s defending nodding the ball home from Rodriguez’s corner past the clueless Alexander Dominguez. After a scrappy 30 odd minutes the game looked like it would peter out to a draw but in the 70th minute Drmić managed to find the back of the net from close range, except as we have been experiencing in previous games there was another incorrect offside decision from the officials. It seemed Xhaka’s dummy fooled the linesman as well because he raised his flag despite Drmić being onside when the initial ball was played, presumably he thought Xhaka had touched the ball due to the trajectory of the pass being altered when in fact it had actually touched a Ecuadorian player. However this didn’t discourage Switzerland as they continued to press on a create another chance to go ahead 3 minutes later but under pressure Mehmedi played the wrong ball when he had support on either side. It was obvious Hitzfeld had to do something if the Swiss were to avoid a draw so in the 75th minute he subbed Drmić off for Real Sociedad’s Seferovic in an attempt to get another goal. As the game went beyond the ninety minutes it looked that we would have the first draw of the tournament on our hands, yet in the 93rd minute a chance presented itself for Ecuador, Antonio Valencia picked out substitute Arroyo in the Swiss box but an excellent tackle from Behrami gave Switzerland a chance to counter attack. It was Rodriguez again on the left side who was at the eclipse of the Swiss attack and delivered a low driven cross for Seferovic to side foot home and give them a late win.
It was a well deserved win for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side in what could have been one of the most controversial games of the tournament, it certainly means that the Swiss have good chances at progressing out the group stage if they manage to beat France or Honduras. As for Ecuador they will have to fight hard in their next 2 games if they want to progress any further in the World Cup and I’m sure in retrospect manager Reinaldo Rueda would have been satisfied if they had managed a draw.
Man of the Match : Ricardo Rodriguez
France V Honduras
- France (4-3-3): Lloris, Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra, Pogba (Sissoko 57), Cabaye (Mavuba 65), Matuidi, Valbuena (Giroud 78), Benzema, Griezmann.
- Scorers: Benzema (45′ 72′) Valladares (OG, 49′)
- Honduras (4-4-2): Valladares, Beckeles, Bernardez (Osman Chavez 46), Figueroa, Izaguirre, Najar (Claros 58), Wilson Palacios, Garrido, Espinoza, Bengtson (Boniek Garcia 46), Costly.
- Sent off: Wilson Palacios
This was another match up of favourites for 1st and 4th in the group. On paper the disparity between the quality of these two sides is massive. Honduras are arguably the worst team at this world cup, while the 2006 finalists, despite being a shadow of the quality of the 2006 squad still boasts numerous world class footballers, including champions league winners Varane and Benzema. It was very difficult to see anything but a France win in this one, but strange things have already happened at this world cup.
The game started very much as expected with France dominating the ball and Honduras looking to get the ball forward quickly as possible. France got the ball rolling quickly with Benzema with notable chances, his movement along with Valbuena’s causing early problems for the Honduran defence. Valbuena and Griezmann began swapping sides as well which worsened the problems for Honduras.
The midfield battle remained a tough one, with Espinosa and Palacios getting in the faces of the french midfield. Which occasionally boiled over, with Pogba kicking out at Palacios. The passing and movement of the French eventually worn down the Hondurans, who looked exhausted after only 20 minutes. Just before half time they gave way, with a free kick being sent in and Palacios with a poor challenge on Pogba, giving a way penalty and subsequent sending off. Benzema put it away comfortably.
A physical Honduras looked to come out the same, but again couldn’t implement themselves on the technically superior french. Chances again began coming for France, Valbuena, who was excellent throughout and at the helm of most of the moves produced a brilliant ball to Benzema on the 49th minute his shot struck the post, rebounded and was bundled in incompetently by Valladares.
Much to the furore of the Honduras fans and manager, who were confused as the original verdict by the goal line technology was that Benzema’s shot didn’t cross the line. At 2-0 France looked a lot cooler and their movement of the football improved with Valbuena being involved in some lovely one touch moves. Benzema then added a third after finding some space from a lovely worked corner by the French.They were unlucky not to add more on the tally. Honduras had some breaks at the other end, but they mostly ended up as wasted cross and half chances, which Lloris dealt with easily. The last stages of the match saw Honduras getting more frustrated and consequently aggressive without the ball, the French began to start playing at walking pace and the game closed out to a stagnant end.
This French team has kicked any of the past ghosts from the last world cup and will look to leave the group as winners with two good performances in the last two matches. This team has more potential than a lot of people have given credit for, although even tonight at times they looked shaky at the back which may perhaps be their downfall. Just leaving the group would be better than the last showing but for this young side they should expect to make it to at least the quarter final, especially if Valbuena and Benzema both maintain form, with others be able to come into the foray as well. For Honduras their biggest achievement is just being at the world cup and it’s seems they’re content with this. An interesting match between them and Ecuador beckons, with similar styles and Ecuador are not the best team at breaking down lesser opponents.
Man of the match: Mathieu Valbuena