Group E

Shaqiri’s hat-trick hands Switzerland a 3-0 win and spot in Round of 16

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A fantastic hat-trick by Xherdan Shaqiri handed Switzerland a 3-0 win over Honduras meaning Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side moves on to the Round of 16 to take on Group F winner Argentina.

The pitbull-built Shaqiri had been fairly quiet thus far in the tournament but exploded right out of the gates today, netting a long-range blast in the 6th minute into the top corner. Twenty-five minutes later and he was at it again, latching on to striker Josep Drmic’s breakout and cooly slotting home from the center of the box.

Honduras produced a couple of chances in the first half with Wilson Palacios, Juan Carlos Garcia, Roger Espinoza and Jerry Bengsten all spraying long-range efforts wide. But it was the Swiss who had their hands firmly on this match and in the 37th minute, Granit Xhaka nearly made it three when he blasted Gokhan Inler’s set piece, forcing Noel Valladares into a fine save.

Here’s what we were saying at halftime.

With the match well in hand, Switzerland came out in the second stanza hungry for more. In the 59th minute it was midfielder Admir Mehmedi finding the fleet-footed Shaqiri, whose shot heading for the corner was saved by a classy Valladares.

Ten minutes later it was Shaqiri again finding space and releasing a rip that was well-blocked by the Honduran defense. But it was only a sign of things to come because two minutes later Drmic again found Shaqiri off the break and the Bayern Munich attacker put his left-footed shot into the bottom left corner.

Lineups

Honduras: Valladares (c), Figueroa, Bernardez, J Garcia, W Palacios, Bengtson, Costly, B Garcia, Espinoza (Marvin Chaves 45′), Claros (Jerry Palacios 40′), Beckeles

Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Inler (c), Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Drmic, Djourou, Schaer, Shaqiri

Goals: Shaqiri 2 (6′, 31′, 71′)

 

Game(s) On: Gut check for France; Switzerland and Ecuador on the brink in Group E finales

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Entering the final matchday of Group E and it’s all to play for with France needing only a draw against Ecuador to secure top spot in the group.

Meanwhile, Switzerland takes on a Honduras side who ended the European nation’s hopes of advancing in the 2010 World Cup with a draw on the final day of match play. The Swiss, who beat Ecuador 2-1 on a late winner in their first game, trail La Tri on goal difference after being spanked 5-2 by France last week. That means if Les Bleus beat Ecuador, Switzerland need only draw with Honduras to qualify but, if Ecuador beat France, the Swiss must better Honduras to move on.

And, despite losing to France 0-3 and Ecuador 1-2, minnows Honduras actually have a slim chance to advance to the Round of 16. To do so, they’ll need a tidal wave of goals against Switzerland while hoping that France beat Ecuador.

[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Honduras-Switzerland | Ecuador-France ]

Here are the lineups in full for both matches.

Honduras: Valladares (c), Figueroa, Bernardez, J Garcia, W Palacios, Bengtson, Costly, B Garcia, Espinoza, Claros, Beckeles

Switzerland: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Inler (c), Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Drmic, Djourou, Schaer, Shaqiri

Expectation: Expect Honduras to cause problems in the first half, possibly even go up a goal, but eventually one has to see the Swiss as being too talented (despite the defeat against France) to screw this up for the second straight World Cup.

One blogger’s prediction: Honduras 1, Switzerland 4


Ecuador: Dominguez, Guagua, Erazo, Paredes, Noboa, Montero, W. Ayovi, E. Valencia, Minda, Arroyo (c), A. Valencia

France: Lloris (c), Sakho, Benzema, Griezmann, Matuidi, Sagna, Digne Sissoko, Pogba, Koscielny, Schneiderlin

Expectation: Gut check for this France side. Mathematically they haven’t qualified for the Round of 16 but it would be a titanic shock if they were throttled so bad here that they went home. If this Les Bleus side truly are contenders for the cup they’ll prove it by putting the match to bed in the first half and resting their stars in the second. Easier said than done though, Ecuador will come out firing.

One blogger’s prediction: France 2, Ecuador 2

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

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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.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

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.

LINEUPS:

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.