Group E is one that will be challenged by perceptions of hemisphere. The two deepest teams in the group will be a lot further from home than the two teams challenging for an “upset”.
Let’s take another look at Group E (click on country name for full preview)
Switzerland: Steady, streamlined and even-keeled, the Swiss are easily the most brushed-aside power in the tournament by the average fan. Will Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team serve critics humble pie?
Ecuador: The Ecuadorians last four friendlies were against World Cup competition (a loss to Mexico, defeat of Australia and draws against England and the Netherlands). Can this, and the South American climate, help them escape the group?
France: The loss of Franck Ribery stings, and is it enough of a slip to give Switzerland the group and Ecuador or Honduras hope of advancing?
Honduras: CONCACAF fans need to root hard for Honduras to show respectably in Brazil, and a big step will be whether they can toe the line between physical play and red-card worthy tackles.
Who’s going through: Switzerland and France. Even without Ribery, France has enough talent to exorcise the demons of its awful 2010 experience.
Who’s going home: Ecuador and Honduras. The Ecuadorians have a better shot than the Hondurans, but do they have enough top-end talent to leave France or Switzerland behind?
Marquee match: France versus Switzerland, 3pm ET June 20. If the bracket follows suit, the winner of Group E gets Argentina, while the second-place nation gets Bosnia & Herzegovina or Nigeria. This match will likely be the decider.
Top players to watch:
5. Antonio Valencia, Ecuador
4. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland
3. Paul Pogba, France
2. Gokhan Inler, Switzerland
1. Karim Benzema, France