Today’s the day!!! So, you’ve had some blogs about the groups and now it’s my turn to give you a run down of Group E.
Well this looks on paper this looks like a 2 horse race to see who qualifies, and with a group consisting of France, Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador you would be forgiven for thinking that, but I want to delve a little deeper and see if if Ecuador or Honduras have any chance at all or are just making up the numbers in this group.
They certainly have had a huge variance of success in the last 4 world cups, either getting to the final (1998, 2006) or not winning a single game (2002, 2010) this points to a very unpredictable team to say the least, it is also worth pointing out that apart from Mexico 86 they have not reached the knockout stage in a World Cup outside of Europe, this again makes them very unpredictable. The one thing on there side is they have probably never had a better chance of making the knockout stages with group they have been dealt.
France also had a tough qualifying group and in the end only finished 3 points behind Spain but 8 clear of Finland, losing only one game from 8 on the way. So you would think they are in good form and although they lost their opening game of the playoff still managed a 3-0 win over Ukraine to book their place in Brazil.
It should be said that they have a far more settled team than I’ve seen from the French in previous years, and with some experience and youth in their team look like a better bet for progression than history would suggest.
Key Player – Benzema (9.8) has had a good season at domestic level this year and has had his best scoring season if his career outside of France, but then who wouldn’t when you have Bale and Ronaldo teeing you up, that being said he has grown into a well rounded and level headed player and although has yet to really realise his potential, a good World Cup will certainly cement him as one of the best in Europe.
One To Watch – Pogba (6.7) a confidant young lad, who at the time of leaving Man Utd many said that he was to big for his boots and to full of his own importance to play for them, and at the time they may have been right, but since leaving them and getting first team action he has emerged as one the most sought after midfielders in Europe. Even promoting MU to rumored to pay nearly 30m to get him back. If he can inspire France at the World Cup his value could reach 40m by the end of the tournament.
The Differential – Valbuena (6.1) a player that has had a great season at Marseille and the quick, and skilful winger is a player to watch if France are to do well. And with the injury to Ribery, may get more gametime that first expected and coulbe be a bargain for FiT managers looking score some points without breaking the bank.
Probably on paper the weakest team in the group and many peoples tip to be on the wrong side of a few goals in this group, and I must be honest I haven’t seen anything to suggest otherwise. They have a few players playing in the UK, Garcia and Espinoza at Wigan, Figueroa at Hull, Palacios at Stoke and Izaguirre and Peralta at Celtic and Rangers. So they have players with experience of playing at a high level but I doubt this will be enough for them to make any impression on this group. They finished behind USA and Costa Rica in qualifying but did finish ahead of Mexico in the group and were unbeaten in both matches against them. So are not incapable of an upset but it would be a brave man to bet on it
Key player – Carlo Costly (6.8) Top scorer in the second phase of qualifying, with 7 in 14, a record of 1 in 2 is not bad return, but then 3 of them were in the 8-1 win over Canada. The chances are if they score in this group he will have something to do with it.
One To Watch – Jerry Bengston (6.7) can play either alongside the frontman or as a number 9 just behind him, a good player that has an eye for goal and could be a good bet for a couple of assists if he isn’t on the scoresheet.
The Differential – Roger Espinoza (4.7) tough tackling midfielder, might not seem the best player to have on FiT, but he pulls the strings in midfield and can play a killer ball if needed, probably won’t score but could pick up an assist or 2. It was hard to find a differential from Honduras.
For me these are the “dark horses” of this years World Cup, there is usually one team that bats well above its weight and surprises a few people. This year it should be Switzerland, they have a very strong spine to their team and if you mix this with a couple of flair players, you have the makings of a very good team. Their defence is where you will be impressed, they kept 7 clean sheets in qualifying and only conceded 6 goals in their 10 match campaign. They also have some experienced players in midfield, this will prove to be a vital piece of the jigsaw as with the likes of Inler, Shaqiri, Dzemaili and Behrami they have players that have all picked up winners medals at their clubs this season. If their is a weakness it is scoring goals, apart from their “freak” 4-4 draw in qualifying with Iceland they didn’t score more than 2 goals in any of their other 9 games. This may change in the World Cup with the recent good form and emergence of both Drmic and Seferovic, they are both young and very talented players that have had good seasons for their clubs, the question is with neither of them having a great deal of international experience are they ready for the big step up in class, only time will tell. Either way I think there ability to keep things tight and not conceded will see them win this group and with a bit of luck in the knockout stages, who knows what they could achieve.
Key Player – Xherdan Shaqiri (6.3) may not be a regular at his club side Bayern Munich, but he is a very good footballer who can win a match on his own. His pace, ability to run with ball and beat players will be vital to Switzerland as they look to make the knockout stage.
One To Watch – Drmic (6.3) this guy is lethal, although still only 21 and only 5 caps for his country with 2 goals, he is a guy high on confidence with 21 league goals this season and with the midfield he has behind him, he could become a real star this World Cup.
The Differential – Dzemaili (5.8) The Napoli midfielder is a dynamic and powerful player in the middle if the park, he also has an eye for goal and netted 7 goals this season for his club, don’t bet against him chipping in with a goal or two in this group as well.
The differential in this group, on their day they could quite easily upset the European teams in this group and the fact the World Cup is in South America will obviously play into their hands. In saying that they had a very mixed qualifying campaign winning 7 drawing 4 and losing 5, the interesting point here comes from the fact that at home they beat Chile, Uruguay and Columbia and also managed to hold Argentina, but away from home didn’t win a game and only picked up 3 points. This suggests they don’t travel well and could negate the South America factor. They don’t really have any household names with the exception Antonio Valencia, the Man Utd wide man and new national captain will play a big part in their campaign and if they are to progress then they will need him to be on form and create the chances for their main man up front, Caicedo who was there top scorer in qualifying scoring 8 times in 16 matches. Don’t expect them to keep many clean sheets either only keeping 5 in qualifying means they will need to rely on their front men to perform.
Key Man – Antonio Valencia ((5.6) The Man Utd winger is very quick and powerful, he be easily be the Man Ecuador turn to for inspiration should the game not be going there way, although he does not have a great scoring record for his country, he will be at the forefront of most attacking play.
One To Watch – Caicedo (7.5) has been Ecuador’s main man up front for the last 8 years, and as a young 17 year old was hailed as the next South American superstar, although there is still time he has never really reached that level, although the ability is clearly there, if Ecuador reach the knockout stage, he could finally earn his big pay day in Europe.
The Differential – Jefferson Montero (5.5) Valencia’s mirror image down the left, had a very tough time at Villarreal a couple of years ago has now found his form again after moving back to South America, could be handy for the odd goal as well and has 8 goals in his 38 caps.
I expect this group to be a lot tighter than most people do. I also expect Switzerland to take top spot in this group, this would leave Ecuador and France to battle it out for second. If France turn up and are prepared then they will win that that game and finish second from Ecuador, with Honduras coming fourth but not being disgraced in any of their games.
I’m sure there will be people that agree and also disagree with my valuation of the group, but one thing is for sure, it will be an exciting group that is a harder to predict than people may think.
Good luck all,
This post was written by FiT Admin