10 Key Factors That Will Decide FIFA World Cup 2014 Group E
After an impressive 5-2 win over Switzerland on Friday, France all but secured their spot in the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, while Ecuador’s 2-1 comeback win over Honduras propelled them into second place in Group E on goal difference.
A tantalizing set of permutations emerges ahead of the final group fixtures on Wednesday, June 25, with no team having confirmed their entry into the round of 16 or an exit from the tournament altogether.
Any manner of results could be thrown up in what promises to be an exciting Round 3. Here are 10 key factors that will influence proceedings in Group E on Wednesday.
France’s Purring Attack
So far, no opponent in Group E—be they minnows Honduras or sixth-ranked Switzerland—have provided an adequate answer to France’s attack, who have scored eight goals in two matches so far.
Karim Benzema leads the way for Les Bleus with three goals, while four other players opened their World Cup account by notching one apiece against Switzerland on Friday.
With accomplished attackers like Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann up front, Didier Deschamps has options in abundance, and France’s complete attacking set-up will continue to light up the World Cup in the knockout rounds.
Didier Deschamps’ Rotation Options
A look at the starting XIs played by Deschamps in France’s two Group E games thus far hints at the fact that he didn't have a set “best XI” in mind when he took his team to the World Cup.
Or perhaps that he has so many excellent options across the pitch that he can afford to change things up and still put out a strong starting line-up regardless of opposition.
Deschamps’ fluid attacking approach involves three interchanging forwards who link up impressively with the midfield three. A strong squad and deep bench allows him to inject different qualities into matches when necessary.
A Lean, Mean French Midfield Machine
It’s no surprise to see France quickly stamp their authority this summer, such is the strength of their midfield, which provides a world-class platform for their forwards to do the business.
When you have the luxury to call on Paul Pogba from the bench on the hour mark, you know you’re spoiled for choice in the middle of the park, and with Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko, Deschamps has plenty of options.
The French midfield have the pace and strength in the tackle, the box-to-box stamina and finesse to transition from defence to attack and a crucial ability to chip in with goals from range and set pieces.
France arguably boasts the best midfield in the World Cup.
Enner Valencia’s Goals for Ecuador
It’ll be tough for Ecuador to spring a surprise against a seemingly unstoppable France, but it’ll likely be down to Enner Valencia to if they are to dent Swiss hopes.
Valencia has been impressive with what he has achieved this tournament; already he’s proved the more accomplished Valencia in the Ecuadorian side—and Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia went into Brazil as Ecuador’s star man.
Reinaldo Rueda’s side have scored three goals in the tournament so far, all three of them coming from Enner Valencia. Safe to say that he carries his nation’s hopes on Wednesday.
An Unlikely Shock for Reinaldo Rueda’s Men
What constitutes as a shock for Ecuador? A win? Or will a mere draw do just fine?
A win would confirm Ecuador’s progress through to the knockout stages of the World Cup, yet a 1-0 win would require just a three-goal win from Switzerland over Honduras for the Swiss to advance. A less unlikely draw against France would mean Ecuador need Switzerland to also draw on Wednesday in order to advance.
But they should concentrate on themselves first. France will be keen to avoid finishing second, with the prospect of being drawn against Argentina in the round of 16.
Switzerland had no answer to France on Friday—Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka’s goals were mere consolation efforts that came after Les Bleus had already done the damage with five goals.
They have the better fixture on paper against Honduras, but Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men will need to bounce back from their performance against France, where they were outplayed, outfought and out-thought.
They’ll have to rely on their second-round conquerors to do them a favor, but only if they take their chance first.
A Bright Swiss Future
Yet this is a young Swiss side that has plenty of potential, as well as current ability—judging from their current sixth place in the most recent FIFA World Rankings.
Among the two front-four combinations Hitzfeld fielded in both of their group-stage fixtures, Valentin Stocker stands as the oldest at only 25 years of age, while Josip Drmic, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri are three of their most well-known hot prospects.
Just as France opened their World Cup campaign with an easy and convincing win over Honduras, so Switzerland’s young stars will be looking to make a similar statement on Wednesday and retake that second Group E place.
Carlo Costly to Salvage Some Pride for Honduras?
CONCACAF have sent some unlikely heroes to the World Cup this summer, with Costa Rica advancing to the round of 16 from Group D, as well as Mexico and the USA’s strong showings.
It was probably too much to ask from Honduras to do the same, given their lack of squad strength in comparison.
Still, Carlo Costly, the scorer of Honduras’ only goal in Brazil, is probably their most seasoned striker with the most international experience. It won’t be easy, but he will be looking to provide some inspiration and pride for his countrymen on Wednesday.
Surely One Step Too Far for the Hondurans
To be fair to Honduras, they’re not completely out of the World Cup just yet. All it takes for them to go through would be a French three-goal drubbing of Ecuador and a two-goal win over Switzerland on Wednesday.
That isn’t as improbable as it sounds, and they have the suspended Wilson Palacios available to return to their physically strong and aggressive midfield as well.
But for the Hondurans to complete a two-goal win over Switzerland would require them to at least triple their total goals scored this summer on top of their defence having to limit the effectiveness of Switzerland’s attack.
Weather and Playing Conditions Could Yet Play a Part…
But will the playing conditions in Brazil, which have come under scrutiny in the past few weeks and in the build-up to the World Cup, end up having a say in how Group E finishes?
France take on Ecuador in the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro in what should be a relatively straightforward tie in terms of weather and playing conditions, but the Honduras-Switzerland matchup takes place in energy-sapping Manaus, which could yet hand the Central Americans an advantage over the Europeans.
It would be the first time any team has qualified for the second round of the World Cup having lost their first two matches—but it’s been that kind of a World Cup.