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 Posted by Kevin Palmer
Jun 9, 2014

Group E: France favourites

Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland

Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras will battle in Group E at the World Cup. Find out who our panel thinks will come out.

Conventional Wisdom

France appeared to hit the jackpot when they landed this pool of opposition, with Switzerland considered to be the weakest of the top-seeded teams and Ecuador and Honduras outsiders to make an impression at Brazil 2014.

This perceived stroke of fortune for Les Blues has raised expectations among the Gallic football public, with the modest hopes that were being placed on the shoulders of coach Didier Deschamps and his players being replaced by hopes that France can thrive in this World Cup.

- Men in Blazers: Can France advance from Group E?
- 32 Teams in 32 Days: Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland

That change in mentality could work against France, who are expected to beat Honduras in their opening match in Porto Alegre and march toward a top-place finish in the group, avoiding a potential second-round clash with Argentina in the process.

Of course, conventional wisdom is rarely applicable in a World Cup, and Switzerland in particular will be keen to confirm they are worthy of their elite seeding status.

Must Watch

The clash between Switzerland and France in Salvador in the second round of matches will be crucial in resolving Group E.

While France have a squad capable of exploding into life and providing a real spark at this World Cup, they also have an in-built ability to underachieve, as they highlighted with shambolic efforts on and off the field in South Africa four years ago.

Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland are the ideal candidates to test France's credentials. Hard to break down and with a handful of young players who have the potential to establish themselves as world stars this summer, they have the capacity to upset Les Bleus with a pressing style that may be tough to sustain in sticky South American conditions.

Look out for Borussia Moenchengladbach's 21-year-old midfielder Granit Xhaka to catch the eye, while young Nurnberg forward Josip Drmic is also an exciting prospect.

Main men

Xherdan Shaqiri may play second fiddle to Arjen Robben at Bayern Munich, but he will be centre stage for Switzerland in Brazil.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland): First-team chances have been limited for wide man Shaqiri, as he is behind Arjen Robben in the pecking order at Bayern Munich, but he will be a vital cog in Hitzfeld's Swiss machine with his pace and tricky moves.

Antonio Valencia (Ecuador): Injuries and dips in form have undermined Valencia's hopes of shining with Manchester United during the past couple of years, so his eagerness to make his mark in this World Cup will be self-evident.

Karim Benzema (France): Not always the most popular of strikers among supporters of his club and national team, but Benzema tends to pop up with crucial goals when it matters most. France need him to come to the party in Brazil.

Maynor Figueroa (Honduras): It may seem unusual to select a central defender as a key man in a World Cup bid, but the highly experienced Figueroa is a powerful presence and a leader in the Honduras side.

What Matters Most

Switzerland's progress through qualifying saw them placed among the top seeds for the World Cup and with the highly experienced Hitzfeld at the helm, there is every reason to believe they will be a tough nut to crack in Brazil.

The youthful squad of players Hitzfeld is working with should go into this tournament enthused rather than intimidated by their task, with their opening clash against Ecuador in Brasilia on June 15 key to their hopes of building momentum.

The two dark horses in this group will be fascinating additions to the mix. Honduras astounded their own fans by securing one of the three automatic qualifying berths up for grabs in the CONCACAF region, with their mix of fine teamwork and insatiable desire serving them well.

Meanwhile, Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda has claimed his side should be targeting a place in the latter stages of this competition. If his confidence rubs off on his players, anything is possible, but their flaky defence is likely to let them down.

Key Stat

Group E is the only group without a team that reached the knockout rounds at the 2010 World Cup. Switzerland, France and Honduras were all eliminated in the group stage in 2010, scoring a total of two goals. Switzerland did achieve a stunning victory over Spain.

- Five Aside's Group E preview

Prediction

1. France
2. Switzerland
3. Ecuador
4. Honduras

Group A | Group B | Group C
Group D | Group F | Group G |
Group H

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