The French are here for the party and this 5-2 thumping of their neighbors Switzerland is a statement of intent. Not only is France playing well but more importantly there is a real team unity as the togetherness shown by Les Bleus (or on this occasion Les Blancs) bodes well for Didier Deschamps and sets them up nicely for the knock out rounds. France will be looking to finish up with another victory against Ecuador and end up with maximum points to maintain their momentum.
Switzerland will need to regroup. And though they face the group’s minnows in Honduras, the Swiss cannot accept anything less than a win especially as their goal difference has taken a battering. Can Hitzfeld’s men stand the pressure? They’ll need to if they are to progress to the round of 16.
Here are my 4 observations from the France 5-2 Switzerland game:
1. Benzema revels being the main man
Karim Benzema has long played second fiddle at his club Real Madrid to Ronaldo and on the international stage to Franck Ribery. With Ribery out, Benzema has stepped up and has racked up his goal tally scoring in this game, his third goal of the tournament. He should have had a second after seeing his penalty saved, coincidentally the spot kick was the first not to be converted in the World Cup, and was extremely unlucky to have his last second effort ruled out as the referee blew a moment before for full time.
Benzema’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. Immediately after the game Didier Deschamps singled out the striker for praise stating “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.”
Benzema though was quick to spread the praise acknowledging the efforts of Olivier Giroud who made a goal scoring start to the tournament. The Real Madrid man is in an ideal place at the moment thriving on the responsibility but also aware of the fact that the French side is packed with goals all over the place.
2. United France mastering transitions of play
One of the key features of this World Cup is how teams adapt to the transitions of play. How a team reacts to winning back and losing possession has been crucial and the French taught the Swiss a lesson in counter attacking football. The moment France won the ball they attack with directness and purpose with the second and third goals being prime examples. Indeed the build up to the French penalty and Benzema’s shot right at the end of the game were also as a result of quick transitions of play. It certainly helps France possessing players of the likes of Yohan Cabaye, who should have scored, and Mathieu Valbuena, who did score, to ping precise passes and drive the play up the pitch quickly and directly.
What would have pleased coach Didier Deschamps was the unity that the French team displayed during the game. The players fought for each other, were on the same wavelength and celebrated with genuine togetherness each time they scored. Deschamps made a big decision to drop Samir Nasri from the squad because he feared the attitude of the Manchester City forward would disrupt the atmosphere of the French camp. Initially the choice to leave him out seemed questionable especially when Franck Ribery had to pull out as a result of injury. It was a gamble by Deschamps but it looks like it is paying dividends and the man who captained the French to glory in 1998 can afford a wry smile as things are going his way.
3. Hitzfeld notes Swiss deficiencies
Ottmar Hitzfeld probably needs a few new pens and notebooks; such was the German’s need to write copious amounts of notes. Whilst the Internet was awash with predictable jibes such as the Swiss rolling over or the defense sharing similar traits to their cheese Hitzfeld’s notes were probably more scathing. He couldn’t have been pleased with the concession of the second goal which all stemmed from a careless Valon Behrami pass. Nor would he have been too impressed with how his side reacted to the French counter attacking threat.
On the flip side Switzerland did create a number of chances and though the last two goals were nothing more than consolations he can take solace in the fact that his team didn’t down tools despite being five behind.
A manager of Hitzfeld’s pedigree will not allow tolerate the same mistakes to be made again and certainly won’t take the game against Honduras for granted. With Ecuador now level with the Swiss and with a better goal difference the latter cannot accept anything less than a win.
4. Salvador: The goal-den city!
Salvador is the World Cup’s city of goals. Holland thumped Spain at the Arena Fonte Nova 5-1, the Germans dispatched the Portuguese 4-0 and now with this latest result, 5-2, a total of 17 goals have been scored already. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran, the next sides to play at the venue, have a lot to live up to but don’t bet against another goal rush at Salvador.