Switzerland v France – Another Benzema Bonanza
Switzerland v France
France face Switzerland in the second round of the Group E games and one which looks pivotal in deciding who will take the top spot in a relatively straightforward group.
The French cruised past Honduras with an eye-catching 3-0 victory although they were lucky not to suffer any injuries against a highly aggressive Hounduran side who consistently overstepped the mark and could easily have had more than Wilson Palacios dismissed.
The Stoke City midfielder was given his marching orders towards the end of the first half after receiving a second yellow card for a stupid shove in the box on Paul Pogba which resulted in Karim Benzema’s opening goal from the penalty spot. Pogba too, could have been sent off for an earlier clash with Palacios which saw the Juventus midfielder lash out after a late tackle but Les Bleus generally kept their heads well against a team whose tackling would have been reckless on a rugby pitch.
The first goal to be awarded via video technology at a World Cup arrived at the start of the second half when Benzema’s attempt was put over his own line by goalkeeper Noel Valladares. The Real Madrid striker then sealed the win with his second; a viciously struck effort to the roof of the net.
Benzema has now scored eight in his last eight games for France, who have themselves won five of their last six,
scoring 21 times and conceding just once over that run.
A last gasp winner in the third minute of injury time from Haris Seforovic gave the Swiss a hugely important 2-1 win over Ecuador in their first game of the tournament. Switzerland had looked an extremely average team making a mockery of their top ten ranking by FIFA in the first period when the South Americans took the lead through Ennar Valencia from a set-piece but they were a changed side after the interval.
Renowned boss Ottmar Hitzfeld tweaked his formation at the break, moving Xheredan Shaqiri into a more central role to get the Bayern Munich star more involved in the game while substitute Admir Mehmedi’s introduction at half-time instantly paid off as he headed the teams level just three minutes after coming on. Hitzfeld then made another crucial change when he introduced Seforovic with 15 minutes to go and the Sociedad man’s neat finish from Ricardo Rodriguez’s fine cross earned all the points for a Swiss side who have lost just once in their last 19.
Playmaker Yohan Cabaye is a slight doubt for France after he could be seen with an ice-pack on a groin injury after being replaced against Honduras but manager Didier Deschamps has a fully fit squad to select from otherwise and looks set to name an unchanged line-up.
Hitzfeld could alter things for Switzerland after the game changing substitutions of their first outing with Mehmedi expected to start as the team looked far more balanced following his introduction at halt-time after a dismal first half showing.
Each of the last three meetings between these teams have ended in draws, including a scoreless encounter in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, while France were the last team to win in this fixture, a 3-1 win at Euro 2004 when Thierry Henry scored twice and Les Bleus boast 15 wins to Switzerland’s 12 in their 36 clashes down the years.
The French were one of the more impressive teams in the first round of games but at odds on of 3/4 against a team who have consistently proved very tough to beat. Deschamps men can probably afford to draw this game and still top the group thanks to their better goalscoring record so the 11/4 price on a fourth straight stalemate between these teams is the standout bet here.
Clearly in the form of his life, Benzema is the obvious pick of the anytime goalscorer market at 11/10.