World Cup Group E preview: Switzerland v France

Switzerland take on France at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador from 5am Saturday morning (AEST).

Head to head

The two European nations have met a total of 36 times previously – the first staged in 1905 with a French 1-0 victory. But the last time they clashed was seven years ago in the 2006 World Cup group stage when they played out a 0-0 draw. France hold the slight advantage with 15 wins to Switzerland’s 12, with nine draws.

The game

Both teams won their opening contest in Group E, France overcoming a rugged Honduras line-up 3-0 while Switzerland left it late to claim a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. Each will harbour hopes of advancing from the group stages as high as possible to avoid facing one of the favourites Argentina.

The French side are going to stick to a winning formula not changing the side that were winners against Honduras. Switzerland may make a single change to their side bringing in Basel centre-back Fabian Schar who remarkably was their top scorer in qualifying with three goals.

The big issue

A glance through the major statistics for the game against Ecuador reveals the Swiss dominance throughout the game despite needing a 93rd minute goal from Haris Seferović to brush aside the South American nation. Against France they won’t enjoy the same statistics so they’ll need to make the moment count when it arrives.

On the surface, France was comfortable in their 3-0 win over group ragdolls Honduras who treated the game like a rugby match. Scratching the surface, France needed a penalty in the shadow of half-time to open up the contest. Before that they were struggling to convert the chances laid on by Matthieu Valbuena after he was introduced to the grass repeatedly. The French can’t afford to be so profligate against a talented Swiss side looking to secure qualification. 

The game breaker

France look to be unchanged for the match against their fellow UEFA qualifiers and in their previous match, Les Bleus had trouble finding the back of the net. Due to Franck Ribery’s injury pre-tournament, Karim Benzema who netted twice in the win against Honduras will be a key figure. The Real Madrid striker will have to finish the chances the talented French midfield create.

A slightly left-field game breaker for the Swiss, as it is someone who won’t lace up a boot in the contest. Ottmar Hitzfeld watched his side drift along against a good Ecuador side and went to his substitute bench who provided the two goals. If the game is drifting, look for Hitzfeld to shake things up in an attempt to get one over the French.

Prediction: France to win 2-1