France proves too much for Switzerland, takes control of Group E
JUN 20, 2014 5:00p ET
Man of the match Olivier Giroud had a goal and assist to lead the French. Les Bleus now have one foot in the knockout stage, and barring the remarkable, will almost certainly win their group thanks to their huge goal difference.
''It was a great night for us. We hurt them with our quick attacks and with the variety of our play,'' France coach Didier Deschamps said after the one-sided affair. ''You can always ask if it's us who played well or whether the opponent was weak, but I prefer to focus on how we played.''
If there was ever a game that made a mockery of the FIFA rankings, it was this one. The Swiss, a seeded team? You must be having a laugh. The fact is that France had not won their opening two games at a World Cup since their title run in 1998 -- but in this dreadful group, and with opening games against Honduras and this very average Swiss side, they always had a chance to get off to a flying start. Even a team that stumbled through qualification, requiring a playoff against Ukraine to get here, couldn't screw this one up. And they did not.
The Swiss looked completely inept on defense and in midfield, continually coughing the ball up to the fleet Mathieu Valbuena and offering the French chances. And it was an imperious show from the Arsenal striker -- famously maligned in London by many of the Gunners' own fans -- who seemed like he was playing to send a message. Real Madrid the Swiss ain't, but you get the drift.
It only took 18 minutes for the French to capitalize on Friday, with Giroud out-jumping all to head the ball home over Phillipe Senderos off a corner kick. Giroud also won the corner, firing in a deadly cross towards Karim Benzema that Johan Djourou was forced to hack away.
Just a minute later, the Swiss combusted when Valon Behrami inexplicably tapped the ball back to allow Benzema to run onto it, and he raced towards Diego Benaglio's net with the gleeful abandon of a child on Christmas morning. Blaise Matuidi was there to collect his pass, and he blasted the ball in. Ottmar Hitzefled stared on, stunned.
The Swiss had a moment of fightback when Granit Xhaka thought he had scored only to see that the linesman's flag was up. France had smartly pulled the trap and the call was quite correct, but that did not stop the Swiss pleading for mercy.
Just five minutes later, the French had a chance to seal it when Djourou needlessly and stupidly hacked down Benzema in the box with a foul so blatant even the folks in the nosebleed section could see it. Why he continued to protest to old hand ref Bjorn Kuipers is unknown, but here at least, the Swiss got bailed out.
Benzema stepped up the spot and took a very lazy penalty indeed, putting it nowhere near the corner of the net. Benaglio guessed right and saved it, putting the rebound into the path of Yohan Cabaye. Somehow, the PSG man's shot hit the crossbar and came back out.
But no matter, the Swiss would continue to cough up balls, and the French would continue to take advantage. Valbuena would effectively kill the game stone dead when Giroud raced out on a textbook counter after Behrami lamely flailed at a ball in the opposing half. Rapahel Varane fired the ball out, Giroud took it on the clip, ran a good thirty yards and then sent a cross over to the famously small Marseille man. He did not miss.
Benzema added the fourth after the break, finishing off a wonderful move from sub Paul Pogba with a deadly snap-shot. Senderos, victimized all day long by the French, was again at fault on the goal. Moussa Sissoho then side-footed the fifth in after Ricardo Rodriguez failed to close him down wide right. It was no less than the French deserved.
''Karim is confirming that he's in very, very good form. He's in great shape athletically,'' Deschamps said of his star forward. ''His happiness is a joy to behold, he's one of the best players in the world and having such an efficient player is very important in a competition like this.''
It wasn't until late -- and the French had gone into idle -- that the Swiss looked like scoring. The breakthrough came when Blerim Dzemali blew a late free-kick through a French wall and past a stunned Hugo Lloris in the French net. The Swiss looked too embarrassed to even celebrate the goal, but at least they were not shut out.
Granit Xhaka added a second with three minutes to go in the match, slamming home a fine volley off an outlet from Gokhan Inler. It was a pity the match was well over by then. Adding injury to insult for the Swiss, Steve von Bergen had to be removed after only seven minutes, catching a cleat from Giroud on the cheek, and going down hard. Von Bergen was able to come off the field under his own power, but he was gushing blood and there was an immediate fear of a facial fracture.
''France has excellent individual players and they can go very far in this tournament. When the opponent has such strong individual players, they can move quickly to counterattack,'' Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld said through a translator. ''We have seen France's potential. They had an explosion of power and this shows the class of this team.''
The French finish up their campaign against Ecuador; the Swiss can still qualify off their final game against Honduras in Manaus. But after this result, one might ask: Do they really want to?
''I don't want to put a brake on the enthusiasm. It's a huge satisfaction within the team but we're not going to get carried away,'' Deschamps said. ''We shouldn't think we're prettier than we are.''