Three Points: France thrash Switzerland
SALVADOR, Brazil -- Three thoughts on France's 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland in their Group E match at the 2014 World Cup.
1. Fortune favoured the brave
The annals of World Cup history won't turn up too many managers who win their opening game a resounding 3-0, then change both the lineup and formation for their second outing. But that's what Didier Deschamps did, replacing Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann with Moussa Sissoko and Olivier Giroud, and swapping the 4-3-3 for a hybrid formation with two recognised front men: Giroud and Karim Benzema.
Dropping Pogba was the sort of move destined to blow up in your face. Get stuck in the Swiss web and all of a sudden there's media with pitchforks outside your front gate. Instead, it worked like a charm, and not just because Giroud popped up with a goal and an assist, and Sissoko scored the fifth goal. Rather it showed that Deschamps, who had alternated between a one-striker and two-striker setup in qualifying, was serious when he talked about his team having a deep bench and more than one way to play.
Les Blues are now bouncing. To be fair, it didn't take much. They've won two games, which is already twice as many victories as they've had in the past three major tournaments combined. But for a nation that has been suspicious of France since the follies of the late Raymond Domenech era, it matters tremendously. Deschamps took a calculated risk and was amply rewarded.
2. Further evidence that this could be Benzema's World Cup
He should have had a hat trick in the opener against Honduras, but for FIFA's arcane rules on goalkeeping own goals, he would have. He was in the thick of every goal against the Swiss, bar Giroud's opener. He pounced on Valon Behrami's errant back pass to set up Blaise Matuidi for the second. He won the penalty that should have been France's third, only to see keeper Diego Benaglio save his spot kick.
Benzema held up the ball and cued the counterattacking move involving Raphael Varane and Giroud, which resulted in Mathieu Valbuena making it 3-0. He converted Pogba's assist to make it 4-0. And he set up Sissoko for the fifth. He also had another three clear-as-cut-crystal opportunities to score, and had the ball in the back of the net via a curled effort, only for the referee's whistle to have blown for full-time.
The man is as hot as any striker in Brazil right now. The scary bit? Not everything he touches turns to gold -- witness the saved penalty. Imagine when he starts getting those bits right, too . . .
3. Switzerland's Emmental defence cost them dear, but there is hope
Steve Von Bergen succumbing to injury after nine minutes probably didn't help, but odds are it wouldn't have made too much of a difference: The Swiss have a major problem at the heart of the back four. Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos (who replaced Von Bergen) had a veritable nightmare against both Giroud's physicality and Benzema's quickness and creativity. Qualification is still in the balance, but maybe it's time to give Fabian Schar a shot against Honduras.
The good news is that the youngsters showed initiative and drive. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka kept going and were rewarded with two late goals, from the latter's volley and a Blerim Dzemaili free kick. What they lack is experience, like a lot of this side. But that will come. And sometimes you learn more from a day like this than you do from victories.
Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.