- Switzrl'nd 2-1 Ecuador
- France 3-0 Honduras
- Switzrl'nd 2-5 France
- Honduras 1-2 Ecuador
- Honduras 0-3 Switzrl'nd
- Ecuador 0-0 France
Switzerlands Mehmedi scored on 48 minutes, having only come on at the start of the second half
Switzerland v Ecuador
Sunday June 15th. Venue: Brasilia
01 Benaglio, 02 Lichtsteiner, 13 Rodriguez, 08 Inler, 20 Djourou (Booked), 05 Von Bergen, 23 Shaqiri, 11 Behrami, 19 Drmic (Seferovic - 75'), 10 Xhaka, 14 Stocker (Mehmedi - 45')
03 Ziegler, 04 Senderos, 06 Lang, 07 Barnetta, 09 Seferovic, 12 Sommer, 15 Dzemaili, 16 Fernandes, 17 Gavranovic, 18 Mehmedi, 21 Bürki, 22 Schär
22 Domínguez, 04 Paredes (Booked), 10 Ayoví, 23 Gruezo, 02 Guagua, 03 Erazo, 16 A Valencia, 06 Noboa, 13 E Valencia, 11 Caicedo (Arroyo - 70'), 07 Montero (Rojas - 77'),
- 01 Banguera, 05 Ibarra, 08 Méndez, 09 Rojas, 12 Bone, 14 Minda, 15 Arroyo, 17 Ayoví, 18 Bagüí, 19 Saritama, 20 Martínez, 21 Achilier
Here's my report, please let me know what you think of this and the game overall!
Thus far in the tournament there hadn’t been a bad game, so I sat down to watch Switzerland V Ecuador hoping that the law of averages didn’t mean I had to report on the first 0-0. It wasn’t a classic game, but there were goals and a nice bit of late drama to keep things interesting enough. Adrian Chiles straight away chickens out of using my ‘Group of Shit’ label and calls it the ‘Group of Easy’ which doesn’t sound as good, then they show the enormous queues outside the ground 10 minutes before kick off, there are duly swathes of empty seats visible once the game starts, a theme for many games I’ve seen so far. Let’s be fair to ITV pundits, when you’re literally sitting on the beach to do your work it IS hard to get motivated to try, so who can blame Gus Poyet when he states that this is a ‘very important game for Ecuador’ as the extent of his pre-match analysis? Then we meet the commentary team- Sam Matterface and Clarke Carlisle. Matterface is in fact excellent on TalkSport, someone who really knows his football and works well with Stan Collymore on the domestic game, so I’m left to focus on Carlisle to see if he continues his ‘try-too-hard-to-show-I’m-not-as-thick-as-all-other-footballers’ schtick that he has done when I’ve heard him in the past. Still, he looks to have done his homework on the players (or maybe read my group preview) and wonders whether Switerland’s Shaqiri will provide defensive cover for Lichtsteiner.
Ecuador start in lively fashion, forcing early set pieces and looking to take on opponents and we also see some crunching challenges from both sides but much of the quality is poor. Lichtsteiner (nicknamed Forrest Gump apparently) makes a couple of early bursts down the right but messes up his cross both times, while Ecuador’s long passes are wayward. It takes 15 minutes before Shaqiri gets into the game for the Swiss, showing composure on the ball and making an inventive pass, before making space for himself to have a low shot that is easily saved, then Rodriguez has a long shot that Dominguez fumbles wide, as Switzerland start to grow into the game. Then after 21 minutes Ecuador take the lead. A free kick near the corner flag is whipped into a dangerous area by Ayovi, and Enner Valencia is completely unmarked right in front of goal- he couldn’t miss, and his simple header flies into the net. It was a good cross, but the Swiss were too disorganised. Then as they look for a swift reply they completely balls up a corner, taking it short before backheeling it to nobody, as if it was a training ground routine they forgot they were executing.
The Swiss have a couple of long range efforts, Inler in particular forcing the keeper into a decent save, and start to build up the corner count, but keep wasting them. Shaqiri is at the heart of most of their moves, but is having a frustrating time as Ecuador start to sit deeper and deeper, waiting for half time. Carlisle says that Shaqiri is “either awesome or rubbish” and pinpoints why he can’t get into the Bayern Munich team as despite his talent, he just doesn’t seem reliable. Linked with Liverpool as a possible Lallana alternative, they might start thinking the extra £5m for Adam is worth it after all based on this showing.
As half time approaches, Ecuador do make some forays forwards and have a half-hearted penalty shout, but they don’t exactly look terrifying on the break and the game drifts towards the break. It’s about now that I start to think my initial assessment of the group was about right. Neither side is incompetent exactly, they just lack the class of the candidates to win the tournament. Passes go astray when they get into the final third, crossing is frequently poor, while both defences are generally adequate- if anything I’d say that the Swiss have a slightly more inventive midfield (they at least try to work their way into dangerous positions whereas Ecuador tend to hope pace and power can burst them forwards), but Ecuador have the lead because they punished the most glaring error of the game so far.
Glenn Hoddle turns into Arry Redknapp at half time, moaning about zonal marking and talking of a ‘triffic’ ball in. Poyet and Vieira also pile in on zonal, and Adrian Chiles feels he has to chip in with the mind blowing observation that “it all comes down to who gets his head on it first! If it’s a defender then you’ll probably be ok!” If only defensive coaches had realised this before. Glenn has trouble pronouncing the ‘lad that came on against England’, Ecuadorian sub Rojas, has 2 or 3 goes at it, before asking Poyet how to say it. Later on he called Gus, ‘Jus’. Then Chiles gets upset that the ball for the free kick that led to the goal was not placed in the little semi circle the ref had painted, but was slightly to the side of it. At half time, Switzerland replace the anonymous winger Stocker with Mehmedi. An early break for them gives Lichtsteiner yet another chance to push forward, and he is slightly less wasteful than usual, a low shot being deflected wide. From the corner, Mehmedi heads in from an identical position to Valencia’s earlier goal for a Swiss equaliser. Carlisle complains that keeper Dominguez left himself stranded behind Mehmedi and his marker and ‘had to try to reach-around’ which brought a childish laugh from me.
The game quickly reverts to type, with more wastefulness from both sides whenever they get into dangerous areas. Enner Valencia does best, moving forward and hitting a dipping shot that goes just over. Ecuador’s Noboa flings himself into a waist high challenge, but it goes unremarked upon and unpunished, it was probably more clumsy than dirty. Montero also breaks the mould by making a run down the left channel and hitting a powerful shot on target, but Benaglio in the Swiss goal parries it wide.
You could imagine the whistles around Wembley if England’s passing was as unthreatening as Switzerland’s, but suddenly they become incisive and a pass makes its way through to Drmic whose shot is at the keeper but has enough power to squeeze into the goal- the flag is up however, although it looked at first that the ball was deflected to him off a defender and shouldn’t have been disallowed. It takes ages before we get a replay, which confirms that Xhaka had stepped over the ball without touching it when Drmic appeared offside- it’s another poor decision by the officials at this tournament and Switzerland should be 2-1 up. Carlisle calls it ‘controversial’, but is it controversial when it is a factually incorrect decision? It was just wrong.
The Swiss nearly make amends straight away, but Shaqiri again wastes a chance, shooting into the side netting, then Banaglio nearly makes a hash of dealing with a hopeful through ball. As the game reaches the closing stages, a Shaqiri run draws a free kick in a dangerous position but he hits it into the wall, which summarises Shaqiri’s game- promising much but delivering little.
Enner Valencia spins behind Djourou who brings him down, in one of the few occasions that Ecuador’s passes out of defence successfully finds its target, then Ecuador earn another free kick 30 yards out which Aroyo hits well but is saved in the centre of the goal.
Then at the end we have the drama lacking from most of the game. In the 93rd minute Antonio Valencia makes his first impression in the game, driving forward and giving a low cross to Arroyo in space on the edge of the box, but he dwells on it when an early shot was required and Behrami makes an excellent tackle. Behrami then leads the charge out of defence, bursting over half way and the ball is worked to the left for Rodriguez, whose low cross is turned in at the near post by Seferowic, another substitute who wins it for the Swiss. The final whistle goes almost immediately.
Overall, the Swiss were probably marginally the better side and deserved the luck after having a goal wrongly disallowed- ITV praising the ref for giving an obvious advantage during the winning goal, ignoring the terrible error. Chiles says that Hitzfeld is a wise old owl and ‘has now grown even wiser whiskers’- what on earth is he on about? He then says that he’s not sure if Behrami wanted the advantage when fouled during his run forward- has any football pundit or presenter made a statement as obviously untrue? Man of the match is a tough one, as most the players that caught the eye did so because they kept messing up. I’ll give it to Enner Valencia- he scored Ecuador’s goal, went close with another effort and was fairly cynically fouled when he turned well and had a run on goal.
Group of Shit, or Group of Easy, whichever you want, this game won’t have disproved either of those preconceptions. The late goal will have given Switzerland one foot into the last 16 however.
- Mehmedi 48′
- Seferovic 90′
- E Valencia 22′
Ref: Ravshan Irmatov
- Switzerland 62%
- Ecuador 38%
- Switzerland 17
- Ecuador 10
- Switzerland 6
- Ecuador 4
- Switzerland 8
- Ecuador 5
- Switzerland 9
- Ecuador 15
Honduras No.8, Palacios gets a red card for two bookable offences
France v Honduras
Sunday June 15th. Venue: Brasilia
01 Lloris, 02 Debuchy, 03 Evra (Booked) 06 Cabaye (Booked) (Mavuba - 65'), 04 Varane, 05 Sakho, 19 Pogba (Booked) (Sissoko - 57'), 14 Matuidi, 10 Benzema, 08 Valbuena (Giroud - 78'), 11 Griezmann
07 Cabella, 09 Giroud, 12 Mavuba, 13 Mangala, 15 Sagna, 16 Ruffier, 17 Digne, 18 Sissoko, 20 Remy, 21 Koscielny, 22 Schneiderlin, 23 Landreau
18 Valladares, 21 Beckeles, 07 Izaguirre, 19 Garrido (Booked), 05 Bernárdez (Chávez - 45'), 03 Figueroa, 17 Najar (Claros - 58'), 08 Palacios (Dismissed after an earlier booking), 13 Costly, 11 Bengtson (García - 45' Booked), 15 Espinoza
- 01 López, 02 Chávez, 04 Montes, 06 García, 09 Palacios, 10 Chávez, 12 Delgado, 14 García, 16 Martínez, 20 Claros, 22 Escober, 23 Martínez
After finishing off my Ecuador-Switzerland report, I tell Ms J that I’ve written it and ask her to guess the score (she hadn’t watched it) and she gets it spot-on. I then ask her for a prediction for this game and she suggests 3-0 to France, so I push the boat out and stick a quid on. Disappointingly only 7-1 odds, but it seems a reasonable chance of success.
The night gets off to a slightly farcical start, Jonathan Pearce speculating that the PA system is broken as there are no announcements of the teams nor even national anthems played. Pearce then gets into Saints fans’ good books as he goes through the subs list and says that it’s good to see Schneiderlin at the World Cup after a ‘wonderful’ season.
France start the game itself in a positive style, getting some dangerous crosses in and the contrast with the earlier match is obvious, immediately looking more comfortable in the final third than either Switzerland or Ecuador did all game. They earn three successive free kicks on the right, the first one they try a clever pull back but mess it up, the second forces the keeper Valladares into a good punch clear. The third nearly brings the opening goal, a half-clearance falls to Matuidi who hits it powerfully and sees his shot excellently tipped onto the top of the bar as it flies over. Honduras find it very difficult to get a foothold in the game, conceding possession every time they try to get out of defence and held under pressure by the French. I’d been interested to see Pogba play and his style is actually reminiscent of our own Morgan- he also looks tall and elegant on the ball, easily turning his way out of trouble and playing with his head up, with a nice touch. He’s involved a few times in a patient build up that ends with an Evra cross finding Griezmann, whose header hits the bar again. Then a fantastic cross field ball by Griezmann finds Valbuena in the box who pulls it across but just too high for Benzema who can’t get over his header and puts it over the crossbar from close range.
It’s surely a matter of time before France score, but then we get the first big shoving match of the tournament as Palacios tangles with Pogba, niggling away at him, before Pogba kicks out from the floor. Both players get booked, but Pogba was maybe fortunate that Palacios exaggerated reaction didn’t earn him a red and undo France’s excellent early work. The incident disrupts France’s flow somewhat, as they loosen their grip on the game a little and Honduras finally get into opposition territory, although they still struggle to actually get into dangerous areas.
France build again, the skilful Griezmann linking with the busy Matuidi again who can’t quite squeeze the room for a cross, but as time goes by Honduras start to gain belief, and aim towards reaching half time on level terms, even committing some men into making some tentative forays forwards.
Pogba shows some tricky skills in the box, wriggling away and finding Debuchy, whose cross is blocked by Bernandez. Then Benzema wastes a good position on the left of the 6 yard box, before France finally make a breakthrough. A good ball into the box finds Pogba who chests it down and waits for the barge in the back, which Palacios duly provides. Penalty and 1-0 to Pogba in his duel with Palacios, who picks up a second yellow and a red for his clumsy challenge. Benzema sends the keeper the wrong way and France have a deserved lead just before half time.
Cabaye then picks up a silly yellow card for a poor tackle, shortly before the whistle goes at an important time for a ragged Honduras who look shell shocked by the penalty and red card. Pearce speculates that the could be another red card in the game as Valbuena whips a free kick that is kept out well at the near post.
At half time Thierry Henry and Robbie Savage get into a bit of a debate about whether Pogba deserved a red card for his kick out at Palacios, but its hamstrung by glib statements from Henry that he doesn’t think it was a red because he is French, and from Seedorf that ‘red cards are red cards if the referee gives it’ which adds literally nothing of value, and I actually feel a bit sorry for Savage who at least tries to justify his viewpoint although undermines himself by squealing “You can’t kick out!, you can’t kick out!” using his usual toddler-tantrum style of analysis.
As the second half starts, France immediately double their lead. Benzema sidefoots against the far post and it rebounds to the keeper who fumbles towards the line. Goalline technology says that it crossed the line and the goal is awarded. But a minor confusion occurs where 2 replays are shown, first that it didn’t cross the line when it hit the post and rolled back across, then that it did when the keeper fumbled it. Simple enough hmm? Not according to Pearce and Martin Keown who are completely baffled by the fact that time moves in a linear fashion and don’t seem to understand that 2 separate moments have been shown. They start ripping into the concept of goalline technology and Pearce in particular comes across as being a bit thick (later calling it controversial when it was nothing of the sort). It also confuses those in the stadium for a few minutes, but really it wasn’t that complex and didn’t need such a palaver. Even Robbie Savage says at the end that “there’s no confusion about it”. The only issue I have is that none of the video replays make it look like it actually had crossed the line, but I guess we have to trust that the tech got it correct! It would have been a very difficult one for the ref with the naked eye so it highlights the value of the tech. Benzema claims it, but it has to be an own goal.
France then start to turn on the style, Benzema nearly getting a legitimate second of his own, and the tricks start coming out. Pogba is withdrawn after 55 minutes as his yellow did put him at unnecessary risk but unfortunately it’s Sissoko that replaces him rather than Morgan. Nevertheless Pogba was mighty impressive while he was on the pitch, the petulance that might have got him sent off being the only blot on his performance.
Honduras look flustered, Izaguirre getting needlessly involved with Valbuena, and their plans turn towards damage limitation. Matuidi ends a move by putting it in the side netting, to cries of “3-0, what a good goal!” from Pearce who has to spend about 2 minutes backtracking when he realises it went wide.
Honduras make an attack through Garcia that draws a fairly simple save from Lloris, but these attacks are even rarer in the second half than they were in the first. We get an insight into Keown’s mind when he sees a ‘good honest challenge’ that Evra ‘did well to get out of the way’ of.
After 71 minutes France put the game to bed. Debuchy has a shot blocked after a well worked set piece, it falls to Benzema on the right of the box and he absolutely thunders it into the net from an angle. The keeper got hands on it, but the power meant he had little chance of stopping it. It’s a terrific goal and I can almost smell that £7 profit.
At 3-0 both Honduras and Jonathan Pearce start wishing the night could just end (as do I, without further goals thanks), they are both having a torrid time. Garrido makes a terrible challenge on Mavuda, for which he’s lucky to only get a yellow. The French start toying with them in the closing stages, seemingly content to avoid injuries, a real risk against this dirty Honduras side. Matuidi blazes over in stoppage time after a good French break, and you might have heard the whistles for full time which were emanating from my house, before the cheers as I won my biggest bet since picking Anders Svensson as first scorer against Norwich in the 5th round of the 2003 FA Cup!
The opposition were very accommodating towards them and it will only get harder, but this was an impressive start from France, which showed that I was maybe a bit harsh on them in my group preview. Benzema did take his chances, and they showed a talented supporting cast, the likes of Valbuena, Matuidi, Griezmann and particularly the excellent Pogba were all impressive, Ribery was not required tonight. He only played 55 minutes but I’ll give Pogba my man of the match- those 55 minutes settled the result and he ran the show while he was on the pitch. His biggest competitor was Jonathan Pearce, who really raised his game and put in a classic commentary guff performance, mistakes all over the shop, confusion where none existed, general chaos and confusion. If you chose the 5 Live red button coverage you missed out on a treat. Well done Pearcey!
Please let me know what you think.
- Benzema 45′ (pen), 72′
- Valladares 48′ (og)
Ref: Sandro Meira Ricci
- France 71%
- Honduras 29%
- France 20
- Honduras 4
- France 5
- Honduras 1
- France 8
- Honduras 0
- France 13
- Honduras 14
Benzema celebrates after scoring France's fourth goal
Switzerland v France
20th June, Salvador
01 Benaglio, 02 Lichtsteiner, 13 Rodriguez, 08 Inler, 20 Djourou, 05 Von Bergen (Senderos - 9'), 23 Shaqiri, 11 Behrami (Dzemaili - 45'), 09 Seferovic (Drmic - 69'), 10 Xhaka, 18 Mehmedi
03 Ziegler, 04 Senderos, 06 Lang, 07 Barnetta, 12 Sommer, 14 Stocker, 15 Dzemaili, 16 Fernandes, 17 Gavranovic, 19 Drmic, 21 Bürki, 22 Schär
01 Lloris, 02 Debuchy, 03 Evra, 06 Cabaye (Booked), 04 Varane, 05 Sakho (Koscielny - 66'), 18 Sissoko, 14 Matuidi, 09 Giroud (Pogba - 63'), 08 Valbuena (Griezmann - 82'), 10 Benzema
07 Cabella, 11 Griezmann, 12 Mavuba, 13 Mangala, 15 Sagna, 16 Ruffier, 17 Digne, 19 Pogba, 20 Remy, 21 Koscielny, 22 Schneiderlin, 23 Landreau
I wrote quite a lot for my first 2 reports, so I’ll try to be a bit briefer for these ones.
I was very impressed by France albeit against a poor Honduras team in the first game, so was looking forward to watching them again but disappointed that the excellent Pogba was not playing. Switzerland were forced into an early defensive change, van Bergen getting a head injury. They then get completely wiped out of the game within 17 minutes. First France take the lead with a simple corner that is headed in by Giroud- another poor piece of marking by the Swiss, just like in the first game against Ecuador. Then straight from kick off, the Swiss give the ball away in shocking fashion, giving Benzema space to move forward and slip in Matuidi who scores with a low shot at the near post. Clarke Carlisle is not impressed by the power of the shot or the goalkeeping, “It’s not fizzed past him at 40, 50 miles per hour”. Goalkeeper Benaglio might have done better with the first too, having got a hand to it.
The camera picks out a few glum Swiss fans in fancy dress, one looking like a Mexican bandit, another set wearing Swiss cheeses on their heads. I didn’t think much of their team in the first game, fortunate that Ecuador’s weaknesses outweighed their own, and now that their opponents were of a higher standard the pattern of the game was much as expected, France easily soaking up the little invention they were faced with and looking dangerous when moving forward.
After half an hour the Swiss nearly fight back, Behrami forcing an excellent save with a long distance shot, then Shaqiri shooting wide from the rebound- he needed to improve on his frustrating showing previously if his team were to get anything from this game yet ended up being completely anonymous. Highly rated before the World Cup, he has done his chances of a move from Bayern to get first team football no favours.
Moments later, the French earn a penalty when Djourou needlessly challenges Benzema when he’s going nowhere. Benzema’s low shot is parried at the chest of Benaglio (or “full stretch” according to Carlisle), then Cabaye wastes an even better chance, volleying the rebound against the bar.
Minutes later the French do get a third, a quick break leaving Giroud in lots of space down the left, his cross neatly finished by Valbuena in an incisive move. “Not for the first time, there really is a mountain between France and Switzerland!” yells Sam Matterface, a clearly rehearsed but nevertheless good line. He’s my star commentator of the tournament, I really like him.
By half time the French are enjoying themselves (although Evra looks a bit off his game) and look what they are- a far superior team to any other in the group. I was watching this on live pause so fast-forwarded through the half time analysis which in some ways is a shame as Cannavaro is on and he’s a rubbish pundit so I’d have had lots to make fun of. He just ignores the questions he gets asked and rambles something incoherent. The 2nd half drifts until Senderos makes a right mess of a simple ball into the box and lurking behind him, Benzema finishes neatly. Then France make it 5-0, a lovely move ending with Benzema finding Sissoko who hits a side foot shot into the corner.
After that the French switch off a bit. They let in 2 late goals, the first an excellent long range free kick by Dzemaili although Benzema in the wall was quite weak and should have blocked it. Then an Inler chip over the defence is volleyed in by Xhaka who was played onside by Debuchy for what is arguably the best goal of the game, but it’s all too late for the Swiss.
Right at the death, Benzema scores a beautiful goal that is disallowed as the final whistle had gone, curling it into the top corner from 20 yards. The keeper might have heard the whistle though and left it. Benzema goes charging round celebrating and is disappointed to find it ruled, but imagine the reaction from Ronaldo if the same happened to him, it would be hilarious. The camera cut away to the France bench immediately before the goal so we didn’t see it at first. Adrian Chiles straight away denies any ITV responsibility, at least this time it wasn’t their fault.
The game was too one-sided to truly be a classic but it was certainly entertaining. France were excellent again, they need a better challenge and I look forward to seeing them in the knockout stages where I think they will cause problems to any opponent. Benzema is my Man of the Match, despite missing the pen and being at fault in the wall, he linked up well and scored and created goals and both he and his team are making my preview look harsh.
- Dzemaili 81′
- Xhaka 87′
- Giroud 17′
- Matuidi 18′
- Valbuena 40′
- Benzema 67′
- Sissoko 73′
Ref: Björn Kuipers
- Switzerland 58%
- France 42%
- Switzerland 17
- France 22
- Switzerland 4
- France 12
- Switzerland 5
- France 3
- Switzerland 12
- France 15
Enner Valencia celebrates another goal
Honduras v Ecuador
20th June, Curitiba
18 Valladares, 21 Beckeles, 07 Izaguirre (García - 45'), 19 Garrido (Martínez - 71'), 05 Bernárdez (Booked), 03 Figueroa, 14 García (Chávez - 82'), 20 Claros, 13 Costly, 11 Bengtson (Booked), 15 Espinoza
01 López, 02 Chávez, 04 Montes, 06 García, 09 Palacios, 10 Martínez, 12 Delgado, 16 Martínez, 17 Najar, 22 Escober, 23 Chávez
22 Domínguez, 04 Paredes, 10 Ayoví, 14 Minda (Gruezo - 83'), 02 Guagua, 03 Erazo, 16 A Valencia (Booked), 06 Noboa, 13 E Valencia (Booked), 11 Caicedo (Méndez - 82'), 07 Montero (Booked) (Achilier - 92')
01 Banguera, 05 Ibarra, 08 Méndez, 09 Rojas, 12 Bone, 15 Arroyo, 17 Ayoví, 18 Bagüí, 19 Saritama, 20 Martínez, 21 Achilier, 23 Gruezo
I’ll be honest, I probably would have given this one a miss if I hadn’t committed to writing an IBO report, but it was actually a decent game. Joe Speight is the ITV commentator, I’d not heard him before the tournament and I find him quite annoying, he sounds like a local radio DJ, doing a Smashie and Nicey voice where he pronounces ‘T’s as ‘D’s (presumably doing a lot of charidy work) and describing 28 year old Antonio Valencia as ‘promising’.
The game started off in the expected manner, the dirty Honduras side conceding a foul after 3 seconds and picking up a yellow card after 6 minutes. The early quality is fairly poor, but after 20 minutes both teams seem to sense that they are playing against their weakest opponent and that with the Swiss defeat earlier on there is a real opportunity for the winners of this game to get to the last 16 and both try to take some initiative, with Ecuador marginally the better team.
Each side then gets an identical chance as long balls over the top first find Enner Valencia through, but he curls his shot wide for Ecuador. Moments later Honduras do the same as a defensive error lets in Costly, who drills his shot into the net to give them the lead. Costly is chewing on some odd blue plastic, which Lee Dixon speculates is the lid of a biro.
Honduras’ lead lasts just 3 mins, as a long range shot gets a couple of deflections and is turned in by Enner Valencia who anticipated well and makes up for his earlier miss to equalise. The game then becomes quite open and entertaining, with poor defences leading to chances at both ends, Bernadez hits an excellent free kick for Honduras from long range that is well saved as half time approaches.
The 2nd half starts in less exciting manner until Ecuador are a little unlucky not to get a penalty when Caicedo is caught as he goes through on goal, but he tries too hard to stay on his feet. Things start to liven up then, and Ecuador go in front with a similar goal to the one they got against Switzerland, again Enner Valencia heading in a dangerous free kick by Ayovi from the left. He wasted the chance when he was put through, but Valencia looks a good instinctive finisher as well as a willing runner with some skill. If we’re doing a scouting report, he might do well in England if given a chance, maybe not Saints usual style though, he’s more Jay Rod than Lambert but if we want someone to stick away chances then he might be decent. He’s just 25 and plays in Mexico, linked with Newcastle now.
Ecuador seem happy to hit on the break once they get in front, and Honduras do try to press forward but are mainly limited to long range efforts and are unable to claw their way back into the game.
Overall this was a decent watch as both teams had a bit of a go. Ecuador just about deserved the win, but there was a lack of quality about both sides, Valencia again a notable exception- he was the matchwinner and my man of the match. It sets up the final games nicely, with things hinging on the Switzerland-Honduras game where anything might happen. If the Swiss don't get a win then it leaves things open for Ecuador to qualify with a draw against already-qualified France.
- Costly 31′
- E Valencia 34′, 65′
- Honduras 50%
- Ecuador 50%
- Honduras 17
- Ecuador 10
- Honduras 5
- Ecuador 4
- Honduras 4
- Ecuador 12
- Honduras 15
- Ecuador 16
Shaqiri scored a hat trick for the Swiss
Honduras 0 Switzerland 3
25th June, Manaus
I did a double take when researching this match. 'Honduras coach: Luis Suarez' it said. Fortunately it is a different bloke. I knew a little bit about Honduras as a few of their squad play/played in the UK. I did not like the physical style of their 0-0 warm up match against England in Miami - a result that looks less impressive now than it did then. I always look out for the Swiss. The Swiss pay my pension and own my football club. On paper, this is the best squad they’ve had since the 90s when managed by a certain Roy Hodgson. If they were to live up to their FIFA ranking of 6th, they needed to win convincingly in Manaus and progress to the knock-out stages.
18 Valladares (Cap), 21 Beckeles, 5 Bernardez, 3 Figueroa, 6 J Garcia, 14 B. Garcia, 20 Claros, 8 W Palacios, 15 Espinoza, 13 Costly, 11 Bengston.
9 J Palacios for 13 (39), 23 Chavez for Espinoza (46) and 17 Najar for 14 (76)
1 Benaglio, 2 Lichsteiner, 20 Djourou, 22 Schaer, 13 Rodriguez, 11 Behrami, 8 Inler (Cap), 10 Xhaka, 23 Shaqiri, 18 Mehmedi, 19 Drmic
- 9 Seferovic for 19 (73), 6 Lang for Xhaka (76) and Dzemaili for 23 (86)
A look down the Swiss squad list demonstrates that this mature country is happy to welcome immigrants who can bring much needed (in this case football) skills to improve their performance. They have a few home-based players but most now ply their trade in the Bundesliga or Serie A. We are not talking top class players but fit, well coached guys who want to do well for their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who turned down another 2 years and will retire after WC 2014. They needed to be fit. It was 26C and 88% humidity at kick off, conditions that suited Honduras rather than Europeans. In 2010 these sides also met in a sterile 0-0 draw in South Africa, a result that saw both eliminated. At kick off in Manaus, in theory at least, all options remained open.
Honduras settled well and enjoyed early possession. Their passing didn’t create much, indeed it was the Swiss who got the first shot away when Drmic crossed and Shaqiri should have scored. The keeper saved and the follow up was blocked. Fans had turned out in large numbers for this last tie in Manaus but I wondered what sort of match they might see as the awful pitch was already cutting up badly. In fact, the players coped admirably and as the game went on it did not seem to impair their efforts.
On 6 minutes Switzerland took the lead. The ball was worked down the wing to Lichsteiner. The Juventus man is another of those full backs that look happier being wingers. He fed Shaqiri who was backing him up. Shaqiri cut inside, level with the edge of the box and unleashed a sumptuous curling shot that went beyond Valladares’ despairing dive and into the top corner. 1-0 and the pundits were comparing the goal with those of Tim Cahill and Messi.
In these early stages Honduras showed some ambition and tried to press forward. Before their 5-2 tonking by France, the Swiss had conceded very few goals in the past couple of years (how else could they have risen to #6 on the FIFA list?) Here they looked to have recovered some composure at the back and Schaer and the impressive Rodriguez (linked with Liverpool of course) limited them to long range shots – one of the Garcias (don’t ask me which) missed their best chance.
Both sides were ready to put a foot in and break up play. Benaglio needed to get up high to claim a Honduras free kick lofted towards Costly. Honduras were primarily targeting Shaqiri who was brought down by Figueroa on 15 mins. Xhaka was presented with a decent shooting opportunity but his free kick hit the wall and went for a corner which Fernandez overhit.
The next foul on Shaqiri saw him rubbing his arm for a couple of minutes but on 20 the lively Drmic again fed him but this time he fired wide. Whether prompted by the conditions and/or the scoreline Switzerland seemed to be taking a breather. They sat too deep and welcomed Honduras forward. A horribly sliced clearance gave away a corner. The ball came in towards Beckeles who swung a boot and missed the far post. On 24 mins another lofted cross put Djourou under pressure but Bengston relieved it by fouling him.
The middle period saw possession squandered by both sides. The camera panned round the crowd, settling of a number of Swiss cheese hats – a first for Manaus I’d guess. Shortly after the half hour, Switzerland roused themselves. Inler fired a ball downfield, Drmic slipped his marker and broke down the left. He was all alone but had the nous to wait for Shaqiri to join him before delivering the perfect pass into his stride. Good hit – 2-0.
The sides were trading attacks – it was almost end-to-end for a while but as the match progressed Honduras’ increasing frustration was matched by the amount of fouls they were prepared to commit. Switzerland won a number of useful free kicks but made nothing of them. Xhaka and Shaqiri might both have done better. On 39 minutes Carlo Costly limped off, replaced by Jerry Palacios, Wilson’s big brother. Honduras then stepped up and forced a corner. Benaglio was injured punching the cross away. During the time he was being treated other players took a welcome drinks break. Drmic might have increased the lead before half-time but fired straight at the keeper.
The half ended with Switzerland content to pass the ball around. The Hondurans chased around prepared to kick anything they could get near. The big surprise was we reached half-time with no bookings. 2-0 and Switzerland looked comfortable.
Espinoza did not appear after the break, his left wing berth given to Marvin Chaves. He was to prove Honduras’ best player by a country mile. One wonders why he didn’t start. His first action however was in keeping with what had gone on before – he fouled Lichsteiner. Shaqiri then set up Inler who missed the target.
I was contemplating whether Honduras were even worse than England when they gave me powerful evidence to support that idea. Chaves was already starting to frighten Lichsteiner with his pace and on 49 he put in the sort of cross that even Sturridge might have tapped in. For some reason Bengtson felt it appropriate to dive and try to head it in. Rubbish! Honduras kept up the pressure. Garcia tried to find Palacios but Benaglio was quickly out to field the cross. Moments later Bengtson rounded the keeper but his shot was brilliantly hacked off the line by Rodriguez - he is going to Liverpool don’tcha know.
After 10 minutes rest, the Swiss moved upfield again. Lichsteiner fed in a corking cross for Mehmedi but the offside flag was raised. Shaqiri then put in Xhaka who turned into trouble. Next he set up Drmic who fired straight at the keeper. On 59 minutes Mehmedi set up Shaqiri whose shot was well saved by Valladares.
Honduras then earned a corner. The initial cross was cleared but when the ball was played back in Djourou tangled with Jerry Palacios in the box and the #9 went over. You have seen those given but not now, not by this referee. What Jerry does get is the games’ first yellow card for an innocuous trip on Schaer as he carried the ball out of defence. Claros then sent in a cross for Bengtson but Shaer tidied up. Honduras fed Chavez who earned a corner. With all this Honduras pressure it was almost inevitable what would happen next. Rodriguez sent Drmic scampering down the left. The striker beat his man then set up Shaqiri who tucked away his 3rd. It was the 50th hat-trick scored at World Cup finals and something for Manaus to remember when the circus moves on. At this point I realised my IBO Fantasy Team were having a fabulous day too.
The commentators seemed oblivious to 3-0 being a score that put Switzerland firmly ahead in the in the battle for second place in Group E. There were under 20 minutes left and 2 goals were needed, at least 1 for Ecuador in Rio, if things were going to change. The Swiss were more aware and soon replaced Drmic and Xhaka with Seferovic and Lang. Honduras still made the odd chance. Another corner came – and went – but as time ticked away the Swiss started to enjoy themselves. Inler, Mehmedi and Shaqiri were involved in a quite exquisite passing move but over-elaborated and ran the ball out.
On 80 the lively Chavez delivered another excellent cross. This was met firmly by the head of Bengtson drawing a very good save from Benaglio. But generally it was the Swiss dominating possession. Lang set up Mehmedi but he fired at the keeper. Then Inler hit a long shot which didn’t trouble Valladares. Another “goal of the tournament” attempt came to nought when Rodriguez was stopped in his tracks by a lino’s flag. Then Jerry missed the target at the other end.
Shaqiri came off with 4 minutes left. He was properly applauded for a fine evening’s work. The game got rather stretched as it moved into 3 minutes extra time. Honduras gamely sought a consolation goal but, despite the efforts of Chavez, it never came. The biggest excitement of the final moments came when Sepp Blatter appeared on the big screen and was roundly booed by all the fans. Good work!
Thus ended the last match at Manaus. I just hope the locals enjoyed their football as the chances of further games being played here are slim. Grass won’t grow in equatorial rainforests. Pitches had to be flown in from Sao Paulo to get these games on. We live in an increasingly crazy world.
Switzerland move on to Sao Paulo to face Argentina in the round of 16. Honduras don’t.
- Shaqiri 6′, 31′, 71′
Ref: Néstor Pitana
- Honduras 62%
- Switzerland 38%
- Honduras 12
- Switzerland 16
- Honduras 4
- Switzerland 10
- Honduras 8
- Switzerland 1
- Honduras 17
- Switzerland 17
Our hero is fifth from the left (In the grey tracksuit tops!)
Ecuador v France
25th June, Rio De Janeiro
The Teams :
22 Domínguez, 04 Paredes, 10 Ayoví, 14 Minda, 02 Guagua, 03 Erazo (Booked), 16 A Valencia (Dismissed), 06 Noboa (Caicedo - 89'), 13 E Valencia, 15 Arroyo (Achilier - 82'), 07 Montero (Ibarra - 63')
01 Banguera, 05 Ibarra, 08 Méndez, 09 Rojas, 11 Caicedo, 12 Bone, 17 Ayoví, 18 Bagüí, 19 Saritama, 20 Martínez, 21 Achilier, 23 Gruezo
01 Lloris, 15 Sagna, 17 Digne, 22 Schneiderlin, 21 Koscielny, 05 Sakho (Varane - 61'), 19 Pogba, 14 Matuidi (Giroud - 67'), 10 Benzema, 18 Sissoko, 11 Griezmann (Remy - 79')
02 Debuchy, 03 Evra, 04 Varane, 07 Cabella, 08 Valbuena, 09 Giroud, 12 Mavuba, 13 Mangala, 16 Ruffier, 20 Remy, 23 Landreau
Team news at the kick off tells us that Schneiderlin is earning his first cap for France, 'not a particularly French sounding name' according to Steve Wilson, fair enough, but well done to Morgan. Ecuador start the game knowing that they’ll need a draw or more likely a win to edge out Switzerland and after 10 minutes they learn that Shaqiri has given the Swiss the lead in their game against Honduras, which puts Ecuador under pressure.
Ecuador would need Enner Valencia to continue his good form, but disaster nearly strikes as he picks up an early knock, but a bit of magic spray gets him going again and he makes a burst through when Matuidi makes an uncharacteristic error in midfield, but the French manage to recover as they always do against the infrequent Ecuadorian attacks.
The first 30 minutes sees little goalmouth action, Sagna hits a cross over Benzema’s head but the French lack the urgency of the previous games and their final pass is usually wasteful in the same way that Ecuador’s are, although you get the feeling that it’s lack of quality from the South Americans rather than effort.
Morgan is keeping things simple, his usual tidy passes retain possession nicely although he is happy to sit at the base of the midfield rather than get in the box, allowing Pogba to do the more flashy stuff with mixed results. Pogba’s header is the best effort of the first half, well tipped over following a crossed free kick earned after a nice move involving Morgan a couple of times.
Ecuador’s best chance inevitably involves Enner Valencia, he leaps about 5 foot off the ground and gets in an excellent header downwards from a looping cross that forces a good low save from Lloris.
Noboa gets a head injury and comes back on wearing a strange hairnet bandage that makes him look like a yellow smurf.
At half time, Juninho plays the role of foreign pundit that doesn’t really say anything interesting, politely saying that England were very unlucky and have good young players. You can see the steam coming out of Chris Waddle’s ears and he goes on an excellent rant.
France start the second half with purpose as Sagna gets in a low cross that Griezmann gets on the end of, but Dominguez pulls off a brilliant one handed save to tip it onto the post. Then a challenge by Antonio Valencia leaves Digne on the deck, Valencia went over the top of the ball and gets a deserved red card although Philip Neville waffles on about ‘going for the ball’. It leaves Ecuador in a mess if they want to qualify, but they almost get in front straight away. Pogba dwells on it in midfield and is robbed by Noboa who breaks and exchanges passes with Enner Valencia, but Noboa completely scuffs his shot from the edge of the box. It’s just the kind of chance that Ecuador need to take if they are to win the game and it was completely wasted, despite the good incisive build up.
Enner Valencia was described by a certain poster on IBO as a shit Jay Rod (tongue in cheek I hope), I don’t think that’s fair and have been more and more impressed by him in this tournament, he’s unfortunate to be in a weak Ecuadorian side where he has stood out. I’d be quite happy for him to be the new Agustin Delgado for Saints!
France get a hold on the game with the extra player, Benzema playing in Matuidi who hits it high but straight at the keeper who blocks and both teams engage in some ridiculous shooting from stupid distances that go miles off target (Morgan included, after dinking the ball over his opponent to make the space). The French tend to do so in a careless way, Ecuador with increasing desperation that something miraculous might happen. Pogba heads another excellent chance wide, it’s not been his night tonight, although he clearly has some quality. Then we hear that Shaqiri has completed his hat trick for the Swiss- from what I saw in earlier games, Shaqiri had been a big let down for Switzerland, I have to assume he’s had a decent game (the goals look good) but it does nothing to dispel the inconsistent label I’ve given him. Aside from goals, I wonder what Spot made of him? It means Ecuador now need 2 goals.
With time running out, Ecuador at least give it a go and throw men forwards, Ibarra cuts inside and hits a powerful shot that Lloris saves well. This leaves spaces at the back and the French find openings but can’t find a way past Dominguez in goal who has had an excellent game, pulling off a particularly good save from Remy at full stretch. In stoppage time Giroud heads straight at him when he has the last chance to win it. Based on this I’ll give Dominguez man of the match (Lineker: 'the former bus conductor, makes lots of stops')
Overall the French cruised the game with minimal effort. Ecuador did their best but didn’t really have the quality to beat a side like France. A draw is a decent result for them usually, but in this context is not enough- they will look back to that last minute against Switzerland when they might have got a late winner but ended up conceding one. I obviously didn’t see the Switzerland-Honduras game tonight but based on what I saw in this group I felt a little sorry for Ecuador not to qualify as they put up more of a fight than Switzerland against France, albeit a less interested France than the Swiss faced. Onwards for the French who will fancy themselves against Nigeria in the next round and have the talent to be in with a chance of winning the trophy.
Ref: Noumandiez Doue
- Ecuador 32%
- France 68%
- France 21
- Ecuador 2
- France 9
- Ecuador 1
- France 7
- Ecuador 17
- France 6