With days left before the World Cup, GrandstandU continues its Path to the World Cup series by analyzing Group E, which includes France, Ecuador, Switzerland and Honduras.
France: After defeating Ukraine in the European playoffs, France earned a somewhat controversial bid to the World Cup. Les Bleus hopes to avoid repeating a terrible performance in the last World Cup when they were eliminated in the first round. France should improve significantly, if for no other reason than its opponents are inferior. France, which has fantastic players in every position, should easily win the group provided it plays with consistency.Unfortunately for France, Franck Ribery was ruled out for the entirety of the World Cup due to a back injury. Ribery, who turned in numerous consistent performances for Bayern Munich and France this year, was set to take on a major role in the World Cup. He was also in the running for the Ballon D’Or. Karim Benzema, who had a great season with Real Madrid, and Paul Pogba will need to step up their game in place of Ribery. Pogba is already being considered one of the best midfielders in the world despite being just 21. Last season, he won the Golden Boy award, an award given annually to the most impressive European young player.
Ecuador: La Tri qualified for the World Cup by finishing in fourth place in the CONMEBOL group, a tournament in which they turned in a stellar performance. La Tri even managed to defeat one of the stronger South American teams in Uruguay, which will help instill confidence. Especially since Ecuador has not experienced the best season leading up to the World Cup, losing one of its best players, Christian “Chucho” Benitez, to a heart attack in 2013. La Tri plays with an aggressive and physical style accustomed to creating plays. The home-field advantage provided by playing at Quito’s altitude helped significantly in earning a World Cup bid, but when Ecuador plays in normal conditions, players look unorganized and unsuccessful. Without home-field advantage, Ecuador will have to adapt themselves if they want to advance to the next round. To advance, Ecuador has no margin for error and it must win its initial match with Switzerland. Additionally, Switzerland and Honduras can’t pull off the upset. Some key players that may cause trouble for opponents are Antonio Valencia, who plays in Manchester United, and Felipe Caicedo, who has proven himself as a strong goal scorer. Valencia, while a great player, tends to be inconsistent.
Switzerland: Unbeaten during the qualifying stage, the Swiss play an attacking yet neat passing game and could be the dark horse of Group E if Ecuador loses its matches. Many of Switzerland’s players compete for the top clubs in Italy and Germany. One of its biggest weaknesses could be Brazil’s climate, which will drastically affect player fitness. To win, Xherdan Shaqiri will need to create huge plays to set up Josip Drmic, the team’s striker, for a shining World Cup performance.
Honduras: Honduras earned its World Cup bid with a third place finish in the CONCACAF group standings. Los Catrachos’ main objective will be to simply win a game, something Honduras has not managed to do. The team could acquire a win in the group stage, but considering the strength of the other three teams, it’s unrealistic to thing Honduras has a chance of advancing. Defensive instability and an inconsistent midfield contribute to Honduras’ problems, but Emilio Izaguirre, who had a great performance in the Scottish Premier League, could help negate them. Another player that could give opponents trouble is Carlo Costly, who missed the last World Cup because of an injury.
Winner of Group E: France (will play runner-up of Group F)
Runner-up of Group E: Ecuador/Switzerland (will play winner of Group F)
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|World Cup – Group E Schedule|
|Sunday, June 15, 2014||Switzerland||Ecuador||11:00 a.m.||ABC|
|Sunday, June 15, 2014||France||Honduras||2:00 p.m.||ABC|
|Friday, June 20, 2014||Switzerland||France||2:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday, June 20, 2014||Honduras||Ecuador||5:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Wednesday, June 25, 2014||Honduras||Switzerland||3:00 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, June 25, 2014||Ecuador||France||3:00 p.m.||ESPN|