Switzerland vs France match report World Cup 2014: Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema star in French romp to stun Swiss neighbours
The thrilling game in Salvador ended 5-2 to Les Bleus
Friday 20 June 2014
Four years to the day since their infamous player mutiny at the last World Cup, France look poised to make a considerably more positive impact on this tournament as they swept aside Switzerland in stunning fashion in Salvador last night.
At the same venue where the Netherlands and Germany had previously flattened Spain and Portugal, France put five goals past their Alpine neighbours to take a firm hold on top spot in Group E.
It was on 20 June 2010 that Patrice Evra and Co did not so much park the bus as sit on it, draw the curtains and refuse to train. Last night, by contrast, France could barely have done more damage to the Swiss had they driven that bus across the Arena Fonte Nova pitch.
Switzerland’s highly regarded young team could not live with the pace and power of a France side who led 3-0 at half-time through goals from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema added the fourth – his third of the tournament already – and Moussa Sissoko the fifth before the Swiss restored at least a shred of credibility, Blerim Dzemaili scoring with a free-kick, and Granit Xhaka with a late volley.
Still this was a France performance that made you wonder how far they might go, given the only other time France have won their opening two games at a World Cup was in 1998 when they took the tournament. It also made you wonder whether World Cup footballers are a bunch of nature-loving tree-huggers at heart. There is a scheme in this north-eastern corner of Brazil to plant 1,111 trees for every goal scored at the Fonte Nova and there have now been 17 in three games.
This was a France team featuring the recalled Arsenal striker Giroud, a late substitute in the opening win over Honduras. He gave a dominant performance, albeit the first damage he inflicted on the Swiss defence came when he caught centre-back Steve von Bergen in the eye with a high boot that forced the bloodied defender off the field inside the opening 10 minutes and prompted the introduction of Philippe Senderos alongside Johan Djourou. This reprised Arsenal defensive pairing could never be likened to Adams and Bould – Addams family might be more accurate, given the horror show that followed. Indeed, the entire Swiss rearguard might have been better compared to a slab of Emmental given the holes France found.
Giroud got their first goal after 17 minutes as he rose high to meet Yohan Cabaye’s corner and power in a header that Diego Benaglio got a hand to in vain. Things rapidly got worse for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men as they served up France’s second goal on a plate 60 seconds later: Valon Behrami on the halfway line played a loose ball straight to Benzema and he released Matuidi to hit a low shot beyond the unconvincing Benaglio at his near post.
Karim Benezema celebrates his goal, he had earlier missed a penalty It was a breathless opening period that could easily have brought even more goals. Xhaka had a goal annulled for offside, then Hugo Lloris made a fine double save to thwart Admir Mehmedi and Xherdan Shaqiri. At the other end, Benaglio saved Benzema’s penalty after a clumsy Djourou challenge on the same player; somehow Cabaye smashed the rebound against the crossbar with an open goal gaping.
If that offered a glimmer of hope to Switzerland it was snuffed out by a lightning French counter-attack five minutes before half-time. On a breakaway from a Swiss corner, Raphaël Varane sent Giroud racing away down the left and he centred low for Valbuena to slot home at the back post.
If the Swiss failure to get players back was poor there, their defending was even worse for the fourth goal after 67 minutes. When substitute Paul Pogba played a ball into the Swiss box, Senderos swung at it and missed and Benzema, peeling away from Djourou, spun and shot between the legs of Benaglio.
Six minutes later the Real Madrid player then teed up Sissoko to sidefoot the fifth goal.
France had actually sat back more in the second period conserving energy, yet still ended up with five goals. There might have been more too given the chances they created. Les Bleus mean business.
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