• France
  • Switzerland
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Prediction
  • Matches
Tab 1
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France
Let’s start by ripping France to bits because they don’t like Schneiderlin. Although at the time of writing he’s just been named in the standby list, he’s unlikely to get on the pitch for them. Fact you didn’t know: Post 1986, the French have either not qualified, failed to win a game at the tournament, or reached the final. 2010 was a disaster for them, all that in-fighting, threats of going on strike, talk that players refused to pass the ball to certain others etc. That looks to be in the past now.

A look through their squad shows lots of names Premier League watchers will be well familiar with. They look to have a nice blend of youth and experience. Their biggest names are Ribery and Benzema. These are both players that have never quite convinced me to be honest. Benzema looks a capable striker to me, finishing chances for Real Madrid, sometimes quite well, and I’m by no means saying I think he’s crap, but I wouldn’t find him a terrifying opponent and he looks like he always has a missed sitter in him. Ribery likewise, does enough to show that he has talent, but perhaps suffers from the old Ibrahimovic effect (since shaken off by Ibra) that he never really turned it on in the big games whenever I’ve watched him. Both these players might make me look a fool (and I’d love them at Saints!), but I don’t think of them as being the stars their reputations suggest. I just think that Benzema wouldn't look so hot without Ronaldo putting it on a plate for him, and Ribery usually gets outshone by Robben whenever I watch Bayern.

Others I’ll be interested in include Paul Pogba- a confusing scenario with his release by Man Utd and rebuilding at Juve, I must admit I don’t watch Serie A, so let’s find out if he’s any good. I don’t like the look of their defence- Evra, Sakho, Sagna, Debuchy all look like potential weak links to me, based on Premier League history. Varane is highly rated, but hasn’t played many games due to injury at Real Madrid. In midfield they have left out Samir Nasri, and might look to Mathieu Valbuena of Marseille for creativity.

Unlike those all-or-nothing tournaments of the past I think France will cruise the group, and do ok in the knockout rounds but probably lose to the first really good opponent they meet, just like England have over the last 20 years.


PS :

I was quite critical of Ribery as a top level player (if I were Jamie Redknapp I'd call him a top player, but not a top, top player). But clearly he was key to the French plans and they will miss him- perhaps not so much in the group stages but in the knockout rounds they would need him to turn it on against the big teams.
Conversely, any Saints fan would tell you that Clement Grenier's injury is a blessing in disguise for the French as it means that Morgan Schneiderlin gets his well deserved chance. You'd normally assume that someone coming off the standby list would be unlikely to get a lot of game-time, but Morgan can look to Trevor Sinclair or I dunno Goran Ivanisevic or Denmark in 1992 for inspiration.

So we'll now have some motivation to hope France are crap at first and they feel the need to look to an uncapped debutant to dig them out of a hole, not an impossible scenario.


My personal favourite France World Cup moment:

The 2006 final, I was had a bet with a friend that they’d beat Italy and was delighted that Zidane’s cheeky penalty crept over the line, less pleased with him later on.

Jickster


Tab 2
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Switzerland
Switzerland never seem to turn up at tournaments. They sometimes have elegant midfielders, I enjoyed watching Alain Sutter and Ciri Sforza at mid 90s tournaments, and they sometimes claim the odd creditable draw (or that park the bus win over Spain in 2010) but never make much of an impression with a fairly drab style usually. It’s hard to see them doing much better this time although they are supposedly a bit more attacking under Ottmar Hitzfeld nowadays. I saw their Olympic team lose to Mexico 2 years ago and they were pretty uninspiring then.

They seem to have quite a collection of players that play for successful European clubs, even if few of them are household names. Shaqiri of Bayern Munich is a skilful key player, they also have Juventus’ attacking full back Stephan Lichsteiner. Blerim Dzemaili is a highly rated midfielder as well. Like France though, they have some dodgy ex-Prem defenders, with Senderos and Djourou making me think how lucky England are to have Chris Smalling available to us, which should make the Swiss worry.
The Swiss have got lots of competent players and will probably finish second because it’s a fairly weak group, but any opponent would be happy to face them in subsequent rounds. Let’s get behind them for Katherina’s sake though.


My personal favourite Switzerland World Cup moment:

They had an excellent 4-1 win over Romania in 1994, and I had Stephane Chapuisat in my fantasy league team, he scored his only goal of the tournament.

Jickster


Tab 3
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Ecuador
Ecuador always makes us think of Agustin Delgado, they often have a good home record in qualifying due to playing their games at altitude. They might have a better chance if this tournament was back in 1986 in Mexico.

Their star player is apparently still Antonio Valencia, I think he is sometimes unfairly under-rated as a player, when he has a simple job to do in an effective Man Utd side I think he does it well, but he is rarely a stand out player and has been pretty crap this season. Sometimes players like this raise their game when they are obviously the star in the team, so maybe he will suddenly recapture his form? Ex-Birmingham player Christian Benitez would also have been a key player, but he sadly died last year at just 27. Renato Ibarra plays for Vitesse Arnhem and is a winger, but not a particular goal threat. Aside from that, the vast majority of their players are based in the Ecuadorian or Mexican leagues.

Obviously I could go through these players one by one and list their strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t have time right now. The squad comes from many different teams as well, so they don’t have the one-club mentality that sometimes helps in these situations. Their best hope is that they will not be fazed by the climate- if they are trying to get one over on the Swiss then they might find conditions help them. The second round will probably be the extent of their ambitions however.


My personal favourite Ecuador World Cup moment:

Delgado had been saving himself for the 2002 tournament and was somehow fit for it, and actually scored a goal, making me think he might actually turn out ok for us. So much for that.

Jickster


Tab 4
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Honduras
Honduras are the weakest team in the group and are in fact joint longest odds of all countries to win the tournament, so we shouldn’t expect much from them. They should though be delighted that they are in a group where they have a hope of maybe claiming their first ever tournament win (this is their 4th attempt).

They have a couple of faces you will know, Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios, but neither of those are really stars are they? They also have players from Rangers and Celtic (Peralta and Izaguirre, as well as from a few clubs in Spain. They will look to Jerry Bengtson to provide goals, he has 19 international goals but only got 4 in 32 games for New England Revolution. Their manager is called Luis Suarez- he has experience of managing Ecuador at a past World Cup.

We got to see Honduras in a friendly against England before the tournament. Remember? No?


My personal favourite Honduras World Cup moment:

They qualified last time but I can’t honestly remember a single thing about it and they didn’t score a goal. I do remember as a kid seeing that they had played in the 1982 tournament (which I had been too young to see) and the country name sounded incredibly cool and glamourous- Honduras is a great name for a country isn’t it? That’s it.

Jickster


Tab 5

Jickster's Prediction

Group E, might also be called the Group of Shit. I was the last to claim a group to preview and I can see why the first 7 left it alone. There isn’t much glamour to it outside of France, but maybe we have unearthed some players to watch?

Overall, France will be red hot favourites for this group and even if they pull another disaster out of the bag they might still end up qualifying because the opponents are not in their class. The key match will probably be Switzerland V Ecuador, to decide who comes second and qualifies. Honduras will hope to upset someone. Best odds to qualify: France 1/5; Switzerland 8/11; Ecuador 21/20; Honduras 7/1.

Best odds to win the tournament: France 25/1; Switzerland 125/1; Ecuador 200/1; Honduras 4000/1. Actually despite what I wrote above those actually look decent odds for France, they do have talent to beat any opponent, if things click for them.

Jickster


Tab 6

Group 'E' Matches


  1. Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador - 15th June 2014
  2. France 3-0 Honduras - 15th June 2014
  3. Switzerland 2-5 France - 20th June 2014
  4. Honduras 1-2 Ecuador - 20th June 2014
  5. Honduras 0-3 Switzerland - 25th June 2014
  6. Ecuador 0-0 France - 25th June 2014

Group Table


As at 25.06.14

Country

P

W

D

L

GD

Pts

France

3

2

1

0

5

7

Switzerland

3

2

0

1

1

6

Ecuador

3

1

1

1

0

4

Honduras

3

0

0

3

-7

0