Changes France Should Consider in Their World Cup Clash with Switzerland

Nicholas McGeeContributor IJune 19, 2014

France's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the group E World Cup soccer match between France and Honduras at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Sunday, June 15, 2014.  (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

After destroying Honduras 3-0, France are in pole position to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Victory against Switzerland on Friday will all but secure a place in the last 16 for France; however, Ottmar Hitzfeld's men are sure to provide a different and ultimately sterner test than Honduras did.

Indeed, Switzerland are ranked at No. 6 in the world by FIFA and enjoyed an unbeaten qualifying campaign in which they conceded just six goals.

Furthermore, Hitzfeld's side displayed excellent spirit to come from behind and beat Ecuador 2-1 with a last-gasp goal from Haris Seferovic.

Despite the emphatic nature of their victory against Honduras, it would be wise for France coach Didier Deschamps to consider some changes to combat the Swiss threat in what should prove to be the most evenly matched game of Group E.

Here I analyze the potential alterations Deschamps should look into ahead of the clash at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.


Dropping Patrice Evra

Patrice Evra is one of France's most senior players, and with his big-game experience at both club and international level, he is a tremendous asset for Les Bleus.

However, at 33, there can be no denying that the Manchester United left-back is in the autumn of his career.

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 15:  Brayan Beckeles of Honduras challenges Patrice Evra of France during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between France and Honduras at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 15, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Wa
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Evra was credited with the assist for Karim Benzema's second goal against Honduras as Mathieu Debuchy's drive inadvertently cannoned off him and into the path of the Real Madrid striker.

But despite Evra technically having a hand in France's third goal, there is a player on the bench who could perhaps have more an impact going forward.

Paris Saint-Germain's Lucas Digne has not been a regular since moving to the Parc des Princes from Lille in July last year; however, he certainly has the capability to cause opposing defenses problems.

A player blessed with pace, vision and terrific crossing ability, Digne possesses all the tools to provide France with an added attacking threat down the left flank.

The concerns surround his inexperience and his defensive prowess, which certainly does not stack up to that of Evra.

At 20, Digne will undoubtedly blossom into a fine player on the international stage. The question Deschamps must answer is whether to accelerate his development by throwing him into the fray against one of Europe's better sides.


Bringing in Olivier Giroud

In order to break down a tough Swiss defense, Deschamps may look to add to add more power up front.

David Vincent/Associated Press

And arguably the best way to do that is to bring Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud into the starting XI.

Giroud enjoyed an excellent second season with Arsenal, scoring 22 goals in all competitions, and has the attributes to make a similar impact for the national team.

An impressive physical specimen, Giroud is strong in the air and on the ball and has displayed an increasingly clinical nature in front of goal.

If the 27-year-old former Montpellier man were to come into the side, then that would mean moving Benzemathe two-goal hero from the triumph over Hondurasto the left flank.

Benzema looked capable in that position in the 8-0 rout of Jamaica before the tournament, netting twice, yet it could well be difficult for him to make that same impression from that area against a side of Switzerland's calibre.

Switching Benzema out wide would also probably require Deschamps to drop Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann who, since breaking into France squad in March, has three goals to his name.

Griezmann looked bright in France's World Cup opener, and because of that, Deschamps has a difficult decision on his hands.


Benching Paul Pogba

Another potential avenue to getting Giroud on the field would be to drop one of France's midfield three.

And perhaps the leading candidate to be omitted from the team in favour of another striker is the most talented midfielder on France's books, Paul Pogba.

Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

It is a move that would raise eyebrows, but after the Juventus man somehow escaped being sent off for lashing out during a tussle with Honduras' Wilson Palacios—who saw red shortly after for conceding a penalty for an inexplicable shove on Pogba—it is one that could send a message to the 21-year-old about his responsibilities when on the pitch.

Benching Pogba against the Swiss would more than likely require a change in system.

In the first game, France operated in a 4-3-3 that reverted to more of a 4-5-1 when in defense.

Removing Pogba from the team in favour of Giroud would need Deschamps to adjust that formation to 4-2-3-1, with Cabaye and Matuidi asked to operate in deeper roles and with Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema and Griezmann allowed to roam behind Giroud.

That system would give France plenty of fluidity going forward, but the fact remains that dropping a talent as special as Pogba is unlikely to be a popular decision.

Deciding whether Pogba has learnt his lesson from his moment of madness in the first game is one of many quandaries Deschamps will have to resolve.

But if the 45-year-old gets his selection right, then there is no reason why France should be unable to earn a second straight win and potentially ensure a place in the next round.