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World Cup

  • June 20, 2014
  • • 20:00
  • • Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia
  • Referee: B. Kuipers
  • • Attendance: 51003
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Switzerland-France Preview: On-form Benzema looking to fire Les Bleus into knockout stages

Switzerland-France Preview: On-form Benzema looking to fire Les Bleus into knockout stages

The Real Madrid striker netted twice in the opening game against Honduras and his goals will be key to success for Didier Deschamps' men

France boss Didier Deschamps is likely to name an unchanged starting line-up for Friday’s clash with Switzerland, but opposite number Ottmar Hitzfeld must decide whether to reward those who made such an impact in the country’s World Cup opener against Ecuador.

The Swiss looked set to suffer a shock defeat in Brasilia on Sunday, having fallen behind to Enner Valencia’s first-half header. However, Admir Mehmedi levelled three minutes after being introduced during the interval, while another substitute, Haris Seferovic, swept home the winner with seconds remaining.

Mehmedi came on for Valentin Stocker, who had a desperately ineffective opening 45 minutes, while Granit Xhaka also underwhelmed in behind striker Josip Drmic. However, the early indications are that Mehmedi will again be restricted to the role of impact substitute.

Likewise matchwinner Seferovic, as Hitzfeld looks set to keep faith with Drmic, who was the man in form coming into the tournament and also had a goal incorrectly disallowed during the game in Brasilia.

The Swiss could make one change, though. Johann Djourou was criticised for his performance against Ecuador, primarily for failing to pick up Valencia for the opening goal, and is expected to be replaced by Fabian Schar, who was Switzerland’s top scorer in qualifying (three).

As for France, Deschamps is not expected to tinker with the side that swept Honduras aside in Porto Alegre.

There has been talk in France of Olivier Giroud being drafted into the front three but it would be a major surprise if two-goal hero Karim Benzema is asked to move out to the left-hand side to make room for the Arsenal forward.

Such a tactical tweak would also be harsh on Antoine Griezmann, who did a fine job filling the void left by the injured Franck Ribery.

Players to watch

R. Rodriguez

Position: Defender

Games: 4

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Valon Behrami produced the most memorable moment of Switzerland's meeting with Ecuador - and arguably the entire tournament thus far - with his Jean Tigana-like burst from inside his own area in the dying seconds, but Ricardo Rodriguez played an even bigger role in the victory. Not only did the left-back ensure that Behrami's lung-busting break not go to waste by whipping over the low cross from which Seferovic scored the winner, the 21-year-old also contributed the corner that Mehdi converted for the equaliser. It will be intriguing to see if the reported Liverpool target proves as influential against France.

P. Pogba

Position: Midfielder

Games: 5

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Predicted by many pundits to be the most impressive young player on show at World Cup 2014, Paul Pogba was afforded just 57 minutes before being replaced against Honduras by Moussa Sissoko. He was perhaps lucky to have lasted that long, having escaped with a yellow card after clashing with Wilson Palacios 27 minutes in. Pogba performed well overall – winning the penalty from which Benzema opened the scoring - but it was significant that Deschamps stated afterwards that the 21-year-old needs to exercise "total control" for the remainder of the tournament. Let’s see how he responds against the Swiss.

Editor's Prediction

The Swiss have repeatedly proven awkward opponents for France, with their last three competitive clashes (two 2006 World Cup qualifiers and a group game at the finals) all having ended in draws. Hitzfeld’s side have also lost just once in their last 19 games and, as the game against Ecuador underlined, they are led by a coach who remains one of the best in the business. They do not carry the same attacking threat as France - their greatest offensive players are arguably their full-backs – but they are more than capable of holding Les Bleus to a draw.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Switzerland

France

Wins
0
3
2
Wins

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