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FIFA World Cup 2014: Preview and Predictions - Group E

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A Winter's Tale

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Group E will be interesting but is expected to be fairly straightforward for an improving and young French side who could be a dark horses for the World Cup and will want to make up for the shambolic campaign four years ago. But another good European team with young talent who could surprise people are Switzerland who are expected to finish second and could even finish top if France are complacent. To an extent there is a geographical advantage for Ecuador but this is a team who were very poor away from their high-altitude home. Honduras are very physical and will make life difficult for anyone but a lack of firepower will prevent them from hurting opponents in front of goal. Another intriguing group where I expect France and Switzerland to go through and the group winners would have a good chance of reaching the last 8.

After the embarrassing campaign of 2010, France under Didier Deschamps are an emerging team with good young players. Certainly in a couple of years time France could have a team capable of winning the European Championship. Certainly they have got quality in every department although the injury top Frank Ribery was a huge blow. But it does seem that the French camp is far more united than four years ago and I think France could be a real dark horse in this World Cup, they should reach the quarter-finals. Their squad is made up with: 10 from England (3 from Arsenal and Newcastle United and 1 from Southampton, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool); 8 from France (3 from PSG, 1 from Saint Etienne, Bastia, Lille, Montpellier and Marseille); 3 from Spain (2 from Real Madrid, 1 from Real Sociedad); 1 from Portugal (Porto) and Italy (Juventus). The star man is probably the Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema who had a successful season. Other important players include the PSG playmaker Yohan Cabaye, alongside holding midfilder Paul Pogba. France could be potent down the flanks, with Mathieu Valbuena, in a 4-3-3 formation. Real Sociedad's Antoine Greizmann offers versatility and in defence there is Raphael Varane and of course Hugo Loris in goal. The material is there for success, especially for the future with such a young squad.

Switzerland were drawn as the top seeds for Group E and they are a team who've been tipped by some to be a difficult side for anyone to beat. Switzerland have benefited from a decent approach to youth football and they have some good young players in their ranks. Their team is solid pretty much everywhere. A lack of firepower upfront - as was the case in South Africa - could see Switzerland fall short but they are a strong enough side to get past Honduras and Ecuador and they could potentially match France and finishing top of the group would greatly help their chances for reaching a quarter-final. They have a squad of: 9 from Germany (2 from Wolfsburg, Freiburg, 1 from Bayern Munich, Hamburg, Nurnberg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach); 7 from Switzerland (3 from Basel, 2 from Grasshopper, 1 from Zurich and Young Boys); 5 from Italy (3 from Napoli, 1 from Juventus and Sassuolo); 2 from Spain (Valencia and Real Sociedad). Generally a 4-2-3-1 formation, perhaps their weak point is central defence whilst they are fairly strong in wing-back positions. The Napoli pair of Inler and Berhami is a strength and out wide there is Bayern Munich's Xherdan Shaqiri. They don't have bad strikers, but certainly there are no real, reliable goal scorers which could hold them back, but I'm sure the last 16 beckons for Switzerland.

It's anyone's guess as to who'll not come last but I'll take a risk and go for the physical Hondurans. As Ecuador have a poor away record, Honduras could get a result against them but a lack of goals could be their problem. However, Honduras are very difficult team to beat with a solid backline and they'll be fairly explosive down the flanks making them dangerous at counter attacks and they are also a threat from set-pieces with their height and power. Their compact defence will be difficult for their opponents to penetrate through. But ultimately they won't have enough about them to qualify. Key men include Wilson palacios of stork and celtic's emilio izaguirre. Their squad is made up of: 11 from Honduras (4 from Olimpia and real espana, 2 from montagua and 1 from real sociedad); 4 from the USA (San Jose earthquakes, chivas USA, New England revolution, Houston dynamo) and England (2 from Wigan, 1 from Stoke and hull); 1 from Scotland (Celtic), Belgium (anderlecht), China (qingdao janoon) and Costa Rica (alajuelense).

Ecuador are at their first World Cup finals since 2006 when they reached the last 16. They are a side with a fair amount of pace in the attacking areas, with wingers Valencia and Montero so they shouldn't be real pushovers and could hurt teams on the counter attack. Again, like most teams, their are weakest in defence and this could be exploited by the other teams in the group, and away from their home where games were played at high-altitude, away in qualifying was abysmal. The squad going to Brazil contains: 8 from Ecuador (3 from Barcelona and Emelec, 1 from El Nacional and LDU Quinto); 7 from Mexico (2 from Tijuana and Pachuca, 1 from Atlante, Cruz Azul, Morelia); 1 from Brazil (Flamengo), Colombia (Santa Fe), Germany (Stuggart), England (Manchester United), USA (Chivas USA), UAE (Al-Jazira), Russia (Dynamo Moscow) and the Netherlands (Vitesse). France and Switzerland should see off Ecuador, and I am going to gamble on Honduras taking advantage of their poor away form and as a result, Ecuador could finish bottom.


Switzerland v France, 20th June - 8pm: This could be a defining game for who goes through as group winners.

Predictions:

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][size=2][background=rgb(248,241,243)]Group E:[/background][/size][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Switzerland[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-1 Ecuador, 15[sup]th[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]France[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-0 Honduras, 15[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Switzerland[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-1 France, 20[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Honduras[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-1 Ecuador, 20[sup]th[/sup] June @ 11pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Ecuador[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-3 France, 25[sup]th[/sup] June @ 9pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Honduras[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-1 Switzerland, 25[sup]th[/sup] June @ 9pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
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