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

2 Comments

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.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.