France put on a clinic Friday, racking up five goals to two in a prevailing win over Switzerland to take six points in Group E, and now have a huge opportunity to advance to the knockout rounds of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. If France can defeat Ecuador next Wednesday, they will move into the round of 16.
Switzerland made lineup changes based on their nail-biting win against Ecuador, starting both substitute goal-scorers Admir Mehmedi and Haris Seferović, clearly hoping for the same finishing success from the young strikers. Neither man capitalized, however, which will leave fans wondering whether Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld will revert to his original starting XI versus Ecuador.
Lineup changes were not exclusive to the Swiss; Didier Deschamps made the decision to start Olivier Giroud—a move that paid off in the 17th minute when Giroud buried the first goal of the game and the 100th World Cup goal for France. Switzerland might have expected a short reprieve after the first goal, but they were wrong. Blaise Matuidi scored just one minute later to give France a 2-0 lead.
Switzerland nearly went down by three in the 31st minute when Johan Djourou clipped Karim Benzema from behind right on the end line, and the referee awarded France a penalty kick. Benzema’s shot was saved, however, by goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, and the second effort by Yohan Cabaye reverberated off of the crossbar and out of danger. It did not stay out of danger for long, though. Mathieu Valbuena tapped in a perfect cross from Giroud at the back post to go into halftime with a 3-0 lead.
The Swiss defense was like a colander all game, letting Les Bleus slip through giant holes in their back line. The defensive players did not cover the back post on several plays, did not cut off passes through the middle, and could not hold their line to pull the French attackers offsides. To their credit, though, Switzerland continued striking too, trying desperately to get back in the game.
The stars were aligned for the French though, and Benzema found the net for the fourth time in the 66th minute. Paul Pogba chipped the ball between the center backs and Philippe Senderos whiffed on the clearance, leaving Benzema wide open to slot the ball between Benaglio’s legs.
Moussa Sissoko continued the onslaught with what would be France’s final official goal in the 73rd minute. A perfect pass from Benzema put the ball right where Sissoko needed to one-touch it into the net. Switzerland looked defeated, and Hitzfield stunned, but a converted free kick by Blerim Džemaili gave them a renewed burst of confidence.
The ball rolled right under the legs of the French players making up the wall and past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ outstretched glove into the lower left corner. France looked almost confused, as though they had not expected the ball to stay low, and Lloris had not expected it to come through.
The Swiss took advantage of the momentary lapse, and Granit Xhaka volleyed a pass from Gökhan İnler in the 87th minute to give the Swiss two goals. It was not enough, however, to save the loss. France took the 5-2 win, racking up goal after goal to earn first place in Group E and the chance to move on to the round of 16 for the 2014 World Cup.
Cabaye earned a late yellow, which will disallow him from participating in France’s final group match once combined with his card from Saturday’s game against Honduras. Karim Benzema netted one more goal, but his shot came seconds after Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers had blown the final whistle. It will be argued by fans that Kuipers should not have ended the match during an attack on goal, but the result stands at 5-2, with France taking a decisive victory over the Swiss.
Les Bleus will advance if they gain any points in their match-up with Ecuador. Switzerland, on the other hand, will need to beat Honduras and hope France will beat Ecuador if they want to move into the knockout rounds. France will likely comply, continuing to rack up goals and prove, without a doubt, that they are the top team in Group E for the 2014 World Cup.
Commentary by Christina Jones