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Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 7:52:03 AM
Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 7:52:03 AM
by mark gleeson
SALVADOR (Reuters) - France took their goal tally in two World Cup games to eight as an explosive frontline toyed with neighbours Switzerland and delivered a rampant 5-2 win that put them on the brink of progress to the knockout round.
In an imposing display of swift, attacking football in a game packed with opportunities, the French sent out a stark warning of their potential and could even afford a smile at the close when the referee’s whistle blew for time and denied them a sixth.
Karim Benzema also had a penalty saved as he shared goals with four other players, Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena and Moussa Sissoko.
The Swiss grabbed two consolations efforts in the last nine minutes but they took little gloss off the French victory.
France sit firmly atop the Group E standings and will be assured of reaching the second round if Friday’s later match between Ecuador and Honduras ends in a draw.
"We are going to continue, we really want to shake everything round and we are going to ask the French to support us. There is an enormous satisfaction with the result. We have been very efficient, there is no doubt about that,” said coach Didier Deschamps.
The feast also cemented Salvador’s new-found status as the "goal city" of the World Cup, taking the tally at the Fonte Nova arena to 17 in three games.
Given an average of five per game from the first two encounters, it was no surprise the 51,003-strong crowd were jeering any backward movement in the opening quarter-hour but they did not have long to wait before the floodgates opened.
Giroud rose with conviction to head home Valbuena’s 17th- minute corner to quickly repay the Deschamps' decision to put him back in the starting line-up and it also give France their 100th World Cup goal.
Sloppy Swiss play swiftly delivered a second 66 seconds later. They had three touches from the kickoff before Valon Behrami played a stray pass to Benzema, who accepted the gift with glee before feeding Matuidi to score.
A needless trip on Benzema by Swiss centre back Johan Djourou just past the half-hour mark brought a penalty but Benzema's spot-kick was saved and Yohan Cabaye crashed the follow-up against the crossbar.
The third came within 10 minutes, however, as Giroud ran deep from his own half on a swift-counter attack to set up Valbuena for the third and France were comfortably in command at halftime.
Substitute Paul Pogba’s exquisite 67th-minute pass with the outside of his boot allowed Benzema to turn and score the fourth through the goalkeeper’s legs as he netted a ninth goal in France’s last eight matches.
The striker turned provider for Sissoko, who weighted his shot perfectly past the sprawling Diego Benaglio for the fifth goal five minutes later.
Benzema might be excused blame for allowing Blerim Dzemaili’s free kick to slip under his foot as he jumped out of the way while positioned in the wall as Switzerland got their first in the 81st minute.
Granit Xhaka’s goal six minutes after was arguably the best of the seven as swivelled to score from close range.
But by then Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side had been thoroughly demolished.
“It’s no secret that the French can play football,” he said.
Benzema thought he had added a sixth in stoppage-time but the referee blew the final whistle moments before his volley hit the net in a reminder for the home audience of the controversy in 1978 when Welsh referee Clive Thomas denied Zico a winner for Brazil against Sweden in similar circumstances.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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