The teams of Group E for the FIFA World Cup put on quite a show Sunday, with Switzerland pulling off an exciting last-minute win and France dominating the game and the scoreboard, while Ecuador and even Honduras each put up a hard, though unsuccessful, fight to stay in the running. The teams will face off again on Friday afternoon with the exciting Swiss taking on a dominant French team and Ecuador battling it out with Honduras.
France sits at the head of the class thanks to their 3-0 domination over Honduras. With a backup goalkeeper and missing their star player, the French sent Los Catrachos to the bottom of the leaderboard. Of course they received a little help from Wilson Palacios, who fouled his way out of the game in the first half, giving up a penalty kick at the same time to give France a 1-0 lead going into half time.
Karim Benzema was on fire, scoring all three of France’s goals, including the first half penalty kick. His second goal was credited to Noel Valladares as an own goal, but it was Benzema’s shot off the far post that ricocheted off of Valladares’ back and into the goal. This was also the first real use of the goal line technology, which indicated that the ball had fully crossed the line before Valladares scooped it back into his body.
France had the benefit of playing against 10 men for over half of the game, as well as the help of a penalty kick to put them on the board in the first half. Beyond the scoreboard, France’s possession and passing was somewhat sloppy, and Honduras controlled a lot of the first half possession and won the majority of the balls in the air. France will need to be much more aggressive against the Swiss, attacking 50/50 balls and making smart, controlled passes in the middle. Switzerland has a lot of breakaway speed on their young roster, and Les Bleus could lose if they find themselves hanging back and missing easy opportunities.
Honduras has a lot to make up for. Besides being in last on goal differential (minus three to Ecuador’s minus one), they will be missing Palacios for the upcoming game due to his red card. Some English players may be crying “karma” on this result, as Honduras’ rough playing style—which earned them a draw against England before the tournament began—finally caught up to them and directly caused them to lose the game.
Honduras had some of it right, though. They were aggressive on both offense and defense in the first half, winning most of the free balls and controlling possession much better than France before going down to 10 men. They will need to find a middle ground somewhere between giving up the ball and committing fouls. The best thing they can do is learn to turn their aggression toward the ball, and not their opponents.
The next game pits Los Catrachos against third-place Ecuador, a team still reeling from their (literal) last-minute loss to the Swiss. This is likely the only game Honduras can hope to win in this group, especially with the loss of Palacios, but they can get the desired result if they can avoid unnecessary penalties while keeping the same level of energy and desire to win the ball.
Ecuador thought they had Switzerland running on Sunday after scoring the opening goal for Group E World Cup play and holding the lead through the first half. La Tri pushed hard during the first 45 minutes, using clever through-balls to sneak in behind the Swiss defense and irritate Stephan Lichtsteiner into committing the foul that led to their only goal.
After Switzerland’s first quick goal in the second half, Ecuador successfully held off the Swiss attack, breaking up plays to keep their opponent from taking the lead. Unfortunately, they let their offense lag in the process, and the Swiss, who kept pecking at the goal, managed to snag one off of substitute Haris Seferović in the waning seconds of the game to take the lead and the win.
Ecuador will face a battered Honduras on Friday, with a chance to nudge their way back into the standings if they can manage a multiple-goal win over Los Catrachos. La Tri will need to continue attacking throughout the full 90 minutes and not let themselves be content with a one-goal lead or a draw if they want to advance.
Switzerland gave the most exciting performance of Group E so far for the 2014 World Cup with their face-off against Ecuador, even more than France’s dominant hat trick victory over Honduras. Their quick, energetic style of play gave them several opportunities on goal, although they were unable to capitalize in the first half. Even after Ecuador took the 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute, the Swiss continued to strike. The substitutes were the heroes for Switzerland, coming off of the bench to score both goals. The determination and resilience the Swiss showed in nabbing the second goal just as time expired earned them the win, and could help them overtake France if they can keep it up.
The Swiss’ weak link is their defense, which was caught off-guard a few times by Ecuador, one of those times resulting in a goal that left them trailing early on. They will not be able to make those same mistakes against France, who proved beyond a doubt what they are capable of if given too much space.
The second round of matches will prove to be interesting, as the exciting Swiss team face the dominant French for the top spot in Group E for the 2014 World Cup. If Honduras or Ecuador pull off an impressive enough win, they could be looking at second place and possible advancement to the knockout rounds.
Commentary by Christina Jones