Group E is one of the weaker groups and that’s made evident by France being the biggest favorite. France barely made it to the World Cup needing a 3-0 home win in the second leg (after losing 2-0 in the first leg) of their qualification playoff against Ukraine. And yet, the French are favorites in Group E.
That’s what happens when you get the weakest Pot 1 team in Switzerland along with a struggling Ecuador and Honduras. The draw for France couldn’t have been better.
While France is lucky, this isn’t the same squad that we saw in South Africa that scored just one goal in three Games. It’s a better overall team and a more cohesive unit that can give problems to opponents in the knockout stages.
They have plenty of options on the attacking end with Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery leading the way, but Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy can be dangerous, as well as Mathieu Valbuena on the edges. Yohan Cabaye and Paul Pogba are two more midfielders that can create on their own. Hugo Lloris is one of the best keepers in the world and has an experienced back line in front of him with Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna (or Mathieu Debuchy) as the left and right backs, respectively. When faced with better competition, they’ve struggled, but against the weaker teams, they excel.
For winning their qualification group in Europe, Switzerland is getting a ton of disrespect, but that’s what happens when the second-place team in their group is Iceland. As usual, this Swiss team will be led by an experienced back line. Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio is fantastic in net, but doesn’t get a ton of recognition playing on Wolfsburg. Stephan Lichsteiner, Philippe Senderos and Johan DjOurou lead the group, but the question is going to fall up front where their goalscorers are lacking. Fabian SChar led them in scoring in qualifying and he’s not even a regular player. Most of their scoring will probably come from the midfield with Tranquillo Barnetta, Gokhan Inler and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Ecuador can be a tricky team in this group, but they finished qualifying not playing very well, getting just five points in their last six matches. Interesting enough, they actually played a friendly against group-mate Honduras back in November that finished in a 2-2 draw with one red card for each team.
The Ecuadorians’ success will come down to what Antonio Valencia can do for the team. The Manchester United man is the best player on the squad and needs to make things happen. He’s joined by fellow midfielders Segundo Castillo and Christian Noboa, forward Felipe Caicedo and defender Walter Ayovi. The 35-year-old Edison Mendez will play an important role as well, but it wouldn’t be valuable to lean on him for much outside of experience. The death of striker Christian Benitez earlier this year still weighs heavy on the team.
Honduras is the underdog of the group and for good reason. They didn’t even Scorein the last World Cup if that says anything, but they are a feisty bunch that won’t go down easily. Forwards Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengston will be leaned on heavily to lead the scoring charge. English league veterans midfielder Wilson Palacios and defender Maynor Figueroa lead the unit and need to take charge. The Hondurans face an uphill battle and need some players to step up.
Ecuador is playing on their home continent which is a probably a main reason why their odds are not terrible to advance. It’s hard to see both France and Switzerland not advancing because they are hands down the best two teams here. The Swiss aren’t getting respect, but it’s going to be extremely difficult for Ecuador and Honduras to even Scoreon them, so you have to like Switzerland to advance if not win the group. If France doesn’t advance, bettors probably won’t be happy.