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Mar 26, 2014

Ottmar Hitzfeld: France are favourites

Ottmar Hitzfeld says it would be "an enormous surprise" if his Switzerland side beat group-stage opponents France at the World Cup, while he has praised the work of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld
Ottmar Hitzfeld is looking forward to taking on France at the World Cup.

World Cup Daily

Hitzfeld will lead the Swiss into this summer's tournament in Brazil, where they will face Les Blues, as well as Honduras and Ecuador in Group E.

The two European sides meet in their second game in Salvador on June 20 -- a match-up many feel will decide the order of how the pair will finish in the top two places.

Hitzfeld told RMC he does not expect to pip Didier Deschamps' men to top spot, and merely wishes to get a result sufficient to keep his side in contention to progress to the second round when they meet Honduras in Manaus on June 25.

"I hope that we'll still be in the running to qualify when we get to the third game. I hope for a victory against France to get first place in the group. But beating France would really be an enormous surprise, because for me, France remain favourites in the group," Hitzfeld said.

"All of the players in the team have huge qualities. The best is Franck Ribery. He is really a big personality with extraordinary qualities. He achieved the Treble with Bayern last season. He's the head of the team. I consider him a leader. He's really a team player, he has a superb character.

“But there are also other quality players, [Karim] Benzema, [Olivier] Giroud, [Mathieu] Valbuena. Offensively, they have a lot of possible combinations. And you mustn't forget Hugo Lloris, who, as goalkeeper and captain, is a key part of the squad. And in front of him, the defence is good."

Hitzfeld forged his managerial reputation at Borussia Dortmund, leading them to a Champions League triumph in 1997, before joining Bayern, where he won the competition again in 2001. He also led the Bavarian giants to five Bundesliga titles in his two spells in charge.

Despite his success, he remains in awe of what current Bayern boss Guardiola has achieved in Munich, leading the club to this season's Bundesliga crown in record time on Tuesday night.

"It's always a sensation when a team establishes so many records. No-one has ever been champion so soon in the season,” he said. “It's a sensational performance by Bayern. Pep Guardiola has managed to make a team that had won everything even better. For me, Bayern are also the big favourites for the Champions League."

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