France or Switzerland can secure their progress to the last 16 of the World Cup with victory in Salvador. Our France expert Julien Laurens goes head-to-head with Switzerland guru Ben Lyttleton. Who’s going to come out on top?
Ben Lyttleton on Switzerland: There are no injuries in the Swiss camp but coach Ottmar Hitzfeld looks set to bring in Admir Mehmedi on the left side of midfield to replace Valentin Stocker, who has borne the brunt of the criticism for Switzerland¹s disappointing first-half display against Ecuador. That should be the only change to the side that beat the South Americans, though expect Hitzfeld to play it smart from the bench again. Both his subs were the scorers against Ecuador.
Julien Laurens on France: Yohan Cabaye trained alone on Wednesday but Didier Deschamps said that he will be fit to play against Switzerland after have a sore groin during the Honduras game. The player was not worried either. Everybody else is fit and ready and Deschamps should pick the same starting XI in his favourite 4-3-3 formation. Griezmann should once again be preferred to Giroud, Debuchy to Sagna and Sakho to Koscielny.
Ben Lyttleton: To come from behind to score such a late winner, as Haris Seferovic did in the 93rd minute against Ecuador, has given ŒNati¹ a huge boost going into this game. Valon Behrami¹s box-to-box run just before the goal summed up the attitude of Hitzfeld¹s players, who believe they can go a long way in Brazil. And Seferovic, a tricky customer off the pitch, is happy with his super-sub role ¬ his two goals for Switzerland have both been scored in injury-time.
Julien Laurens: The French started their World Cup campaign in the best way possible with a very convincing 3-0 win over Honduras. They put on a great display with pace and movement up front and physicality and strength in midfield to cope with the aggression of the Hondurans. They were never in danger defensively and could easily have scored four or five goals. Benzema led the team with two goals and a big role in the third one too, an own goal by the Honduras keeper. Griezmann proved Deschamps was right to start him with a great display too, like Matuidi and Valbuena.
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Otmar Hitzfeld on Switzerland: “Ecuador were better than us at running forward with the ball but it is incredible what we managed to do at the end. It was a moral victory, which gives a lot of confidence for the next games.”
Didier Deschamps on France: “The game against Switzerland will be more difficult than the one against Honduras. So let’s not get carried away. Nothing is easy during a World Cup.”
Ben Lyttleton: Ricardo Rodriguez. The left wing-back does not have the flair of Xherdan Shaqiri or the rapid emergence of Josip Drmic, but was perhaps Switzerland¹s most impressive performer in their 2-1 win over Ecuador, as he set up both goals. He was always highly-rated in Switzerland, where he was part of the Under-17 World Cup winning side and one year later, took the place of Swiss veteran Ludovic Magnin at FC Zurich. ³He is brilliant going forward and is already one of our most important players,² admitted Valon Behrami.
Julien Laurens: For his first ever World Cup game, Karim Benzema scored 2,5 goals against Honduras. It was probably his best ever performance with France. Despite a slow start in the game, he was outstanding. He will be a massive threat for the Switzerland defence and he plays with a lot of confidence and momentum too. He is happy to be the main man for France and is coping well with the pressure that comes with it as well.
Ben Lyttleton: Both teams to score at 1.84. With a game against arguably the weakest team in the group, Honduras, coming next, Switzerland can afford to take some risks and go for the win against France, knowing that three points would probably avoid a next-round clash with Argentina. So expect both teams to go for it, in keeping with the rest of the competition.
Julien Laurens: After his commanding display against Honduras, Karim Benzema to score first at 4.30 is the best bet.
Ben Lyttleton: Switzerland 1-3 France at odds of 16.00
Julien Laurens: Switzerland 1-2 France at odds of 9.50
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