Switzerland vs. France: 6 Things We Learned
France thumped neighbours Switzerland 5-2 at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador to secure an impressive second consecutive FIFA World Cup win to take total control of Group E. Les Bleus’ coach Didier Deschamps opted to make two changes from the side that beat Honduras in their opener, and both Olivier Giroud and Moussa Sissoko proved the tactician right.
The Arsenal man opened the scoring before Blaise Matuidi swiftly doubled the French lead and then Giroud turned provider for Mathieu Valbuena before half-time. Karim Benzema missed a first-half penalty but made up for it in the second 45 with a well-taken finish and Sissoko added further gloss to the scoreline.
Switzerland did get two consolation goals; one a driven free-kick from Blerim Dzemaili and the other a sumptuous strike from Granit Xhaka. However, it was not enough for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men, and France celebrate winning their two opening matches at a World Cup for the first time since 1998.
1998 - #FRA have won their first 2 group games at the World Cup for the 1st time since 1998. Relief.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 20, 2014
Deschamps was delighted with his players, but will be trying to keep their feet on the ground after such a strong performance.
"It was a great day for us. After 75 minutes, it was 5-0," he told the media shortly after the final whistle (h/t ESPN FC). "We put a lot of pressure in the midfield and our attacks were very good, which was not good for the Swiss."
"There is an enormous satisfaction with the result, but we have to continue. This was the objective. We have already scored eight goals and there is no doubt that we have been very efficient. We are competitive. We were able to show this today and it was a good test for us. Despite the result, it was not an easy game."
Here are six things we learned from Les Tricolores’ drubbing of the Swiss.
Giroud Makes the Difference
When it was announced prior to the game that Deschamps was opting to change the team that comfortably saw off Honduras in the opening game, plenty of questions were raised. Giroud’s inclusion was questioned because of the impact that it could have switching Benzema back to the left.
It took the Arsenal man just 45 minutes to silence those questioning Deschamps’ logic.
Giroud scored the opener, before starting and providing the penultimate touch on the move for Les Bleus’ breath-taking third goal.
Substituted after 63 minutes, the 27-year-old showed Deschamps that he deserves his place in the starting XI.
Swiss Defence Not Infallible
Prior to the meeting in Salvador, Switzerland had conceded just two goals in eight World Cup matches. La Nati shipped double that as France ran riot, exploiting the vulnerability of the Swiss at the back.
Steve von Bergen’s early substitution through injury after a clash with Giroud did not help—with replacement Philippe Senderos enduring a torrid afternoon—but it would be unfair to pin all the blame on one player.
Switzerland conceded as many goals against France than in their previous nine WC matches combined.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) June 20, 2014
Collectively, Switzerland were poor defensively for the majority of the game. By the time they had shored things up and managed to grab two consolation goals, they were already five goals down.
They may yet get out of Group E, but the Swiss will be progressing no further if they continue to defend the way they did for the best part of the game.
The Real Benzema Is Standing Up
Benzema is well and truly seizing his chance to impress, scoring one goal and laying on a further two against Switzerland as he built on his promising World Cup debut against Honduras last week.
The Real Madrid man took his goal well after being teed up by a sublime pass from Paul Pogba and was unselfish in providing passes for Matuidi and Sissoko’s efforts.
Despite that though, Benzema still missed a first-half penalty and had a controversial late effort ruled out because the referee had already blown his whistle for full time.
3 - Karim Benzema has scored 3 goals in this World Cup, as many as Zinedine Zidane & Thierry Henry in the whole 2006 edition. Hurried.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 20, 2014
The French No. 10 is finally delivering for Les Bleus after years of underperformance and his renaissance is one of the reasons why France have won their two opening group fixtures for the first time since 1998.
Holes in Swiss Midfield
Although Switzerland’s defence were guilty of not handling France’s attacking threats well enough, they were given no help by their midfield teammates.
The Swiss lost the ball in the middle of the park on a number of occasions—notably Valon Behrami for Matuidi’s goal in the first half—and were unable to handle Deschamps’ midfield trio.
Although they eventually got their act together and helped as Hitzfeld’s men managed to pull two back, they were as guilty as the back four for falling behind in the first place.
Varane and Sakho Come of Age
Prior to his 66th minute substitution, Mamadou Sakho was enjoying his most commanding performance at international level. Up until that point, he and partner Raphael Varane had looked calm, collected and extremely solid in the face of Switzerland’s attacking talent.
In his new role as vice captain, Sakho has had to embrace his new leadership responsibilities and he is now playing like a captain.
Strong in the tackle and disciplined in terms of his positioning, both he and Varane proved that their partnership is both one for the present as well as the future.
France are not officially in the last 16. If Ecuador beat France by 4-0 and Switzerland beat Honduras 5-0 France are OUT.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) June 20, 2014
Despite that solidity shown up until Sakho went off injured, France switched off during the final 20 minutes. This is something we have already seen them do in the pre-tournament warm-up clash with Paraguay, and it is something that Deschamps and his players need to work on further.
Although it did not ultimately cost them, it is a weakness that no team they could face in the last 16 will overlook.
Laurent Koscielny struggled to adapt to the pace of the game once he came on, but cannot be held entirely at fault. The whole team appeared to switch off after the fifth goal, and Deschamps must address this before the latter stages commence.
However, Sakho would be a sizeable absence if he is forced to miss any games with the injury that forced him off after the hour mark.
Deschamps Not Scared to Make Big Decisions
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this French victory is the fact that it was obtained through Deschamps making a number of changes from the side that beat Honduras in the opening game.
Antoine Griezmann and Pogba were dropped to the bench, with Giroud and Sissoko coming in and both proved to be inspired alternations. The Arsenal man was sensational as the team’s focal point in attack, while the Newcastle United star was irrepressible in midfield and scored the goal that his performance thoroughly deserved.
Deschamps has shown with this victory that he not only has the guts to make the difficult calls needed to win games, but that he also knows how to tinker with his team to great effect.