AFTER analysing World Cup 2014’s Group D last week, we now take a look at Group E. Not as tough as Groups B and D, this group looks set to see Switzerland and France qualifying for the net round.
Both Switzerland and France are European heavyweights and the other two sides here, Ecuador and Honduras are sure to find it difficult to get past them.
The question is: who will finish first in this group? Here then, is my take on Group E:
After a tough playoff against Ukraine, they’ve booked their ticket to Brazil! France won the 1998 World Cup and came close to the trophy again in 2006 but lost out that time to a resolute Italy in penalties. At World Cup 2010 though, they were disastrous, finishing last in their group. Coach and 1998 World Cup winner Didier Deschamps will no doubt be hoping for a better performance this time around. This is an easy group and it will be a shock if the French are booted out so early! Franck Ribery should be the key player for France in Brazil. When fit, the 30-year-old winger can be a real menace. Karim Benzema will surely benefit from Ribery’s service so expect him to bang in the goals for Les Bleus. Hugo Lloris looks set to don the captain’s armband and he will be definitely one of the goalkeepers to watch in the tournament. Youngsters like Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba should add much needed youth to the squad. France will however, need to be more consistent if they want to do well in this tournament. It’s an easy group though and they should have an easy passage to the next round.
To be honest, Ecuador don’t stand a chance against France and Switzerland. They’ve got talented players at their disposal but they’re certainly not the class of the two European nations in this group. Ecuador may boast Antonio Valencia from Manchester United but he is going through a horrendous time with the Red Devils. Dynamo Moscow’s Christian Noboa is the other key player for Ecuador yet he alone can’t lift the team. Felipe Caicedo used to play for Manchester City and Lokomotiv Moscow but has now joined UAE club Al Jazira. I’m sure that’s a step down for a player of his talent! Coach Reinaldo Rueda will be relying on his seasoned players like Valencia, Noboa and Edison Mendez and at the same time look to offer exposure to youngsters like Marlon de Jesus and Renato Ibarra. Ecuador has got flair and pace but those attributes alone will get you nowhere against more disciplined sides. Ecuador just don’t have the big game temperament and it’s going to be tough for them in Brazil.
I’m expecting this side to qualify to the next round. Ottmar Hitzfeld is an accomplished coach and his composure should rub off on his charges. Switzerland may be a small country but has always had a history of producing great players. After Alexander Frei, Hakan Yakin and Murat Yakin, Switzerland has players like Gokhan Inler, Valentin Stocker and Valon Behrami. Inler for one, is having a great season with Napoli and he will be the midfield enforcer of the side in Barzil. Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka will partner the experienced Inler. Stocker will be the main force in attack and based on his performances with Basel, he looks set to have an impressive World Cup. Xerdan Shaqiri is not a regular with Bayern Munich but whenever given the chance, he seizes it! Nippy and tricky, the 23-year-old is sure to cause problems for defences. Young Fabian Schar looks set to play a key role in defence and he will partnered with either Philippe Senderos or Johan Djourou. This side is known for their tactical discipline and if everything clicks, teams will find it hard to break them down. History may not be on their side but with a talented squad, expect some impressive performances from the Rossocrociati.
Honduras are a surely going home with the wooden spoon. This will be their third World Cup and you can expect them to struggle just as they did before. Most of Honduras’ players play for North American club sides and the team only have few players who feature in European and South American leagues. Under coach Luis Fernando Suarez, Honduras impressed in the qualifiers but it’s going to be different on the biggest stage. Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre and Hull City’s Maynor Figueroa will be the marauding wing-backs for this side while Roger Espinoza will provide the energy in midfield – he is certainly their Duracell Bunny! Jerry Bengtson and Carlos Costly are the forwards and they can surprise with their goalscoring prowess. Youngsters like Andy Najar and Alexander Lopez will add youth to the squad. Najar plies his trade with Belgian club side Anderlecht and looks set to be a key player for club and country in the near future. Overall, Honduras lack big name players and when compared with the other teams, man for man, the side just don’t have the players capable of achieving something special.
Verdict:It’s simple – Switzerland and France to qualify from this group! Ecuador and Honduras will find it tough to beat those two sides, much less hold their own against them. This is one of the easiest groups to call. France looks set to finish first while Switzerland is should bag the second spot.