At halftime: Deadly French hit first-half triple to take command of Switzerland – FOLLOW LIVE


Story of the half: Many blew off the French demolition of Honduras due to the quality (or lack thereof) of their opponent, but it looks as if the French are here to stay.

They’re taking it to Group E seeded team, on top of Switzerland 3-0 in the first 45 minutes, and probably should have had more.

It’s been all France, with a 12-5 shot differential and six of the seven on target.  They were heavy on the break, and converted their set pieces.

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17′ – A corner fell to the French, and from a long way out, an Olivier Giroud header threaded the needle between Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and the near post defender Ricardo Rodriguez.  It was perfect placement from a good distance out, and France opened the scoring 1-0.

18′ – France are deadly, and they took advantage of a Switzerland mistake just a minute later. Valon Behrami’s back-pass was intercepted by a streaking Karim Benzema, and he slotted through Blaise Matuidi coming down the left.  Matuidi finished just inside the post, and the French had a 2-0 lead. Benaglio really should have done better to cover his near post, but could not read where Matuidi was going to put the ball.

40′ – A Switzerland corner turned deadly for the underdogs.  Raphael Varane put through a beautiful pass across the midline to a streaking Olivier Giroud, and he sliced in a perfect low cross for Mathieu Valbuena to crash home from close range.  After having a penalty denied, the French found their third to take serious control.

Other key moments:

7′ – Swiss central defender Steve Von Bergen produced a nasty cut above his eye and could not continue, forcing an early substitution that brought Aston Villa defender Phillippe Senderos into the fray.

27′ – A Switzerland free kick from outside the edge of the box found Granit Xhaka, and he put the ball into the back of the net, but the corner flag was up. It would have been a perfect response to the French double, but it was not to be.

30′ – A Swiss break sees Admir Mehmedi take a shot from straight on, which Hugo Lloris saved. The rebound fell to Xherdan Shaqiri, who struck a bouncer that forced Lloris into an outstanding save, just managing fingertips to the ball destined for the far post, and it just trickled wide and out of the reach of Haris Seferovic making a far post run.

32′ – An idiotic foul by Johan Djorou on Benzema two yards from the end line with the ball about to go out led to a penalty, but France couldn’t capitalize. Benzema stepped up but failed to find the corner with his penalty, and Benaglio guessed correctly and saved it. Yohan Cabaye had a great chance on the rebound, but he hit the crossbar with a lunging shot. The miss is the first failed penalty of the 2014 World Cup.

43′ – Valbuena almost had a second, catching many off-guard with a first-touch shot on the outside of his boot, but Benaglio saved it well with the shot right at him.


France – Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Varane, Sakho, Cabaye, Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema, Matuidi, Sissoko

Goals – Giroud 17′, Matuidi 18′, Valbuena 40′

Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen (Senderos 9′), Inler, Seferovic, Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Djourou, Shaqiri

Players to know:

Olivier Giroud – France’s first goalscorer is the standout frontman at Arsenal, and after finding himself on the bench against Honduras, he earned a start alongside Karim Benzema and was deadly with his head.  He also assisted France’s third to Valbuena.

Yohan Cabaye/Mamadou Sakho – The holding pair have been on point for France. Sakho has completed a game-high 27/29 passes out of the back and made three clearances, and Cabaye finished 20/24 passes as he quarterbacked the advance to all areas of the attacking half.

Key numbers:

81% – Neither side passed well in the first half, with lots of turnovers. The French completed 81% of their passes, while Switzerland only made 80% successful.

7 – The total shots on target for France, proving their dominance. They were actually out-passed by Switzerland by 20, but put seven shots on net as compared to Switzerland’s one.  The total shots are 12 for France and five for Switzerland.

Questions for the second half:

Hardly any, this game’s about done and dusted. The Swiss need a comeback for the history books if they are to make this a game.

Report: Guardiola to take manager’s job at Man City next season

Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.

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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?

Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”

However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.

“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.

“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”

With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.

Mourinho-Costa feud could mean January transfer activity for Chelsea

Diego Costa & Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.

The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.

The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:

Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.

The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.

Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.

“Unprofessional” Grealish banished to U-21s after nightclub incident

Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC
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2015 has been an eventful calendar year for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, to say the least.

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First, there was his emergence as a prominent first-team player for his boyhood club; followed by the Villans’ run to the FA Cup final in May; then came the England-versus-Ireland tug-of-war for his international services; a forgettable vacation to Spain for the 20-year-old; and another managerial change at Villa Park. After yet another off-field incident last weekend, in which Grealish was photographed in a nightclub hours after a 4-0 defeat to Everton, his new manager, Remi Garde, has labeled Grealish “unprofessional” and sent him away to train with the club’s U-21 side.

Garde, on Grealish’s actions and subsequent punishment — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is not professional. It is not what is expected from my players. That is why now Jack is training with the under-21 team for the moment. He won’t be included in the squad for Watford. At this stage he is not playing this weekend and he is training with the under-21 team. That is all I can say for the moment.”

“Sometimes players in every country ask to stay in the city we have played in and this is not a problem for me, it happens one or two times a season. The problem with Jack was not that he wasn’t on the bus. The problem was elsewhere.”

Villa, who will welcome 13th-place Watford to Villa Park on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), currently sit rock bottom in the Premier League (5 points from 13 games), five points away from climbing out of the relegation zone.