Frightening France thrash stupefied Swiss - France 5-2 Switzerland
France came out on top in a one-sided but goal-laden encounter against Switzerland in Salvador – coincidentally the setting for their European heavyweight rivals the Netherlands and Germany’s one sided thrashings of fellow European sides Spain and Portugal – in what was one of the great matches of the tournament so far.
France played with a flair and pomp that hasn’t been seen in an international tournament since 1998, and now need just two goals in the rest of the tournament to equal their goal tallies in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups combined. At this rate, you’d back them to get it.
Story of the Game
Both teams started the game happy to test each other out, the battle in the opening ten minutes starting mainly in the midfield. Karim Benzema got a sighter early on – curling just wide from outside the box with five minutes on the clock – before Swiss defender Steve von Bergen came off the worse in a challenge with former Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye in the air, leaving the field with around 8 minutes on the clock. The nature of the injury was somewhat similar to Alvaro Pereira for Uruguay 24 hours previously, but fortunately, Ottmar Hitzfeld didn’t stupidly opt to leave his concussed defender on the field.
On came Philippe Senderos, formerly of Arsenal and Fulham, to re-unite with former colleague Johann Djourou – one of the dodgiest looking centre back partnerships we’ve seen in the World Cup so far. Soon, this dodgy defence was to put to the test; Yohan Cabaye’s first involvement after the crunching challenge on von Bergen was firing wildly over, while Olivier Giroud tried to find an opening to no avail.
However, it was not long until Olivier Giroud was at centre stage again, peeling away from Valon Behrami at a corner to head excellently home, arrowing his darting header just in between Ricardo Rodriguez on the line and Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal to create a small amount of confusion and ultimately a goal. At 1-0, the French looked reasonably comfortable. It wasn’t to stay like that for long though.
From the re-start, the Swiss gave away the ball again, something which happened all too much against Ecuador, Valon Behrami making his second glaring error to gift Blaise Matuidi the ball. Matuidi ran straight down the left and finished low to Benaglio’s near post – a poor mistake by the Wolfsburg goalkeeper, but an excellent finish and the French lead doubled after 13 seconds of play since the first to boot. The French were cruising, with more than 70 minutes left to play.
Benzema pulled Benaglio into a good save while Switzerland showed they hadn’t given up the fight – Granit Xhaka having a goal disallowed, rightly, for offside. France charged down the pitch from the ensuing free kick and, following a frankly terrible Johann Djourou challenge, earned their second penalty of the tournament. Taker Karim Benzema put it to the same side as his penalty against Honduras on Sunday, but this time wouldn’t find the net, Diego Benaglio making a smart stop before Cabaye side-footed the rebound onto the bar from a position where it looked easier to score.
Not long later, though, France would have their third. Giroud showed that there is a lot more to his game than acting as a target man figure, haring down the left and squaring a neat ball towards Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena who made no mistake from point blank range. That was liquid football; France creating and rounding off their chances in sublime style. Granit Xhaka had time before the break to miss awfully, but Switzerland went into the break losing 3-0, having been dismantled by a complete French attacking performance.
Half time came and went, and soon it was Switzerland making the early running in the second half to try and make amends for a first half performance which had absolutely shell shocked their fans. Blerim Dzemaili of Napoli replaced the frankly awful Valon Behrami as Switzerland tried to claw themselves desperately back into contention. The direction of the game didn’t look promising for them, however. Benzema went close again not long into the half, before Olivier Giroud made way for Paul Pogba. Pogba’s first major involvement was to assist a rather beautiful Benzema goal; picking the ball up in acres of space, the Juventus man chipped a ball towards the area and, after Philippe Senderos made a hash of an attempted clearance, Benzema finished in style, hoisting France into a 4-0 lead.
Switzerland appeared to take their foot off the gas, maybe looking towards a crucial showdown with Honduras on Wednesday; France, in turn, sensed this, moving forward yet again and ending their scoring, as Karim Benzema squared a ball for Moussa Sissoko to slam past a hapless looking Benaglio. It could have been six, as Valbuena went close moments later, but Switzerland held out and began to impose themselves on the game again, perhaps fearing the negative effects of a 5-0 drubbing on their goal difference.
Switzerland received a free kick around 40 yards out, and sensing that Lloris may be a bit rusty following his lack of exertion in the previous 80 or so minutes, Blerim Dzemaili became the third Swiss substitution of the tournament to get on the scoresheet, darting the free kick under the wall and into Lloris’ far corner, the Tottenham goalkeeper sprawling out to his right to desperately get anything on the strike. Was the comeback on?
Well, no, but this didn’t stop Switzerland pushing forward more. A matter of moments later, Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka found himself in the French penalty area following great build-up play. Xhaka, who found himself out of favour at Borussia-Park towards the end of the season, made no mistake, finishing brilliantly and reducing the deficit to 5-2.
There was still time for Karim Benzema to be desperately unlucky for the second time this World Cup – against Honduras he had a goal given to the goalkeeper because of a matter of inches, and against Switzerland he had a second strike ruled out because it was struck pretty much the same time as the final whistle – but, the 5-2 win for France was still a historic result. We haven’t had a 5-2 in the World Cup since 1982, when Scotland thumped New Zealand by the same scoreline. Finally, that much coveted scoreline has been seen again.
Player Ratings (out of 10)
Diego Benaglio – 4: Stopped a penalty, but was at fault for quite a few of the French goals too.
Stephan Lichtsteiner – 5: Made an effort going forward, but ultimately didn’t perform his defensive duties whatsoever.
Johann Djourou – 4: Not the worst Swiss defender on the pitch by any means, but unfortunately his excellent showing against Ecuador was just a one game thing.
Steve von Bergen – 6: Solid in the 8 minutes he was on the field.
Ricardo Rodriguez – 5: Probably could have done better, but shouldn’t be tarred with the brush of his central defenders either – at least he added that little something.
Gökhan Inler – 5: Allowed the Swiss midfield to be overrun for 80 minutes. Dreadful from the Swiss captain.
Valon Behrami – 3: Was at fault for two French goals and went off at half time. That speaks volumes for a truly woeful performance by the former West Ham man.
Xherdan Shaqiri – 6: Might be accused of being wasteful, and rightly so, but carried some of the only Swiss threat too.
Granit Xhaka – 6: Wasteful for most of the game, Xhaka largely atoned for being a bit quick in the shot at certain points with a very sweet consolation.
Admir Mehmedi – 6: Not his fault he’s played out of position all tournament long so far, but could have certainly done better in some positions. Fired over awfully at 3-0.
Haris Seferovic – 5: A performance to forget, let’s be fair.
Philippe Senderos – 2: At least Behrami went off at half time – Senderos’ awful defending was there to be seen for 82 minutes of regulation time. Poor Aston Villa.
Blerim Dzemaili – 7: Improved the Swiss midfield coming on at half time and scored the World Cup’s longest range goal thus far too.
Josip Drmic – 6: Didn’t get too directly involved, but his substitution did help Switzerland improve going forward.
Hugo Lloris – 5: Wasn’t tested very much, yet conceded twice. Really should have done better on that Dzemaili free kick too, even if he expected his wall to do better.
Mathieu Debuchy – 7: Brilliant game from Debuchy. Attacked the Swiss left side with gusto.
Raphaël Varane – 7: Started the move for Valbuena’s goal, and looked solid throughout.
Mamadou Sakho – 6: Went off injured but an otherwise uneventful game for Sakho.
Patrice Evra – 6: Didn’t really seem to do very much.
Yohan Cabaye – 7: Missed several good chances but was excellent at threading together French play on the counter.
Moussa Sissoko – 8: Like Cabaye, he worked well on the counter for France, and even managed to get on the scoresheet. Pleasing for him.
Blaise Matuidi – 8: His goal was amazing, his all round play pretty much at that level too. Matuidi is, on that evidence, one of the best box to box midfielders in the World.
Mathieu Valbuena – 8: Caused constant problems for Switzerland. Rounded off a fine move and was unfortunate not to have two a little later on.
Karim Benzema – 9: Karim Benzema finally looks at home in an international shirt. Another goal to take him to three for the World Cup, unlucky not to get a fourth, and two assists; only a missed penalty tarnishes an excellent performance.
Olivier Giroud – 8: A goal and an assist in just over an hour speaks volumes. Did what he did very well.
Paul Pogba – 7: Got an assist, if you don’t give it to Philippe Senderos for his defensive catastrophe.
Laurent Koscielny – 6: Not really called upon, other than to help Lloris pick the ball out of the net twice.
Antoine Griezmann – 6: Wasn’t on the pitch for long enough to affect proceedings.
Man of the Match
Karim Benzema. A missed penalty aside, Benzema was outstanding, chasing down every ball and winning every header. A wonderfully taken goal, and two great assists speak for him, and but for the timing of a whistle, would have netted a second; if Benzema keeps up this scoring form, and there’s every sign he will, France will go far.