Bonjour everybody and welcome to true faith’s blog on Group E of the World Cup which
contains France, Ecuador, Switzerland and Honduras along with Newcastle United representation in the shape of Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko.
Here I will review the two opening matches of this group and will also give some betting tips for the next round of matches which will hopefully not end with readers baying for my blood. The opening match of this group featured the two sides most likely to finish second to the French by the end of play on June 25th, Switzerland and Ecuador who were backed by the majority of the pro South American crowd. It was they who started the brighter with a flurry of incisive counter attacks; with Montero in particular taking advantage of Juventus full back Stephane Lichsteiner’s rampaging runs forward. Ecuador made their pressure count when Enner Valencia capitalised on some shoddy Swiss marking, the main culprit being the hideously overrated former Asenal defender Johan Djourou.
The match itself was shown on ITV and placed the self- appointed ‘Albert Einstein of football’ Clark Carlisle in the commentary box, basing his argument that Ecuador were quite handy around the assumption that any team the Colombian striker Jackson Martinez can’t get into must be a good one…. Carlisle proceeded to embarrass himself further in the second half by telling the viewer that a referee was unable to book a player after playing an advantage, something which was swiftly corrected by the other commentator whose name escapes me.
Switzerland lacked penetration in the first half but that was swiftly put right shortly after the second half when Freiburg’s Admir Mehmedi headed in from Xherdan Shaqiri’s delicious corner kick. The Swiss continued to pressurise throughout the second half but were wasteful in front of goal until the dying moments, when Valon Behrami made a terrific sliding tackle at the edge of his own box and led a counter attack aided by some good refereeing when he allowed Behrami to play an advantage.
The ball was played out wide to the impressive Ricardo Rodriguez (who I pray Graham Carr is watching) who slid a low cross into Haris Seferovic to ensue pandemonium from the Swiss bench. All in all the Swiss looked impressive, with the double pivot of Valon Behrami and one time Toon target Gokhan Inler (Ashley reportedly baulked at the £10 million price tag surprise surprise) controlling the game from the moment the first goal was conceded, and this win should give them the platform to qualify from this group with ease.
Now we concentrate on the 8pm kick off, France v Honduras; with France strong favourites going into this game yet also not having won an opening WC game since their triumph in 1998 this was an intriguing one to watch. France started with Magpie Mathieu Debuchy and played Yohan Cabaye in the deep lying playmaker role which allowed the likes of Pogba and Matuidi more license to roam. Les Blues started like a train and their fast tempo really should have led to them taking the lead early on, with Antoine Griezmann in particular coming close. The flashpoint in the game came when Stoke’s Wilson Palacios (a bloke clearly educated by Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes) booted and stamped all over Juventus’s Paul Pogba, provoking him to lash out a la Beckham 1998.
If the referee were to apply the laws of the game both players would have been sent off, but I must confess myself to be pleased he only showed a yellow to Pogba, who I was looking forward to seeing play and thought the Honduras rough housing of all the French team was quite shameful and in the main went unpunished. Towards the end of the half we saw the games key moment our man Yohan spotted a pass that not many others could have and drilled the ball towards Pogba’s chest; Palacios then bundled him to the ground, the referee pointed to the spot and Palacios was swiftly shown his marching orders. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema duly dispatched the penalty and from there on in the game was a foregone conclusion. Early into the second half France doubled their lead, although the goal will be remembered mainly by BBC viewers as a moment of cringe as Robot Wars commentator Jonathan Pearce struggled to grasp the concept of goal line technology; which was used for the first time in this World Cup to judge Benzema’s strike to have rebounded off the keeper and over the line.
Sadly in this historic moment and Pearce’s brainfart, Cabaye’s gorgeous pick out and execution of pass to Benzema has been seemingly overlooked; if there’s anything we’ll miss our former number 4 for it’s his sheer on field intelligence, look at our current squad and it’s severely lacking. United fans were also treated to the rare sight of Moussa Sissoko in his preferred central midfield position, one can only hope Alan Pardew was watching as his cameo was impressive with some economical use of the ball and intelligent runs in between the space left by the Honduras defence a clear message that he is wasted on the right wing. The game ended with more shocking Honduras challenges and a piledriver of a finish from Benzema from a rebounding ball as a result of Debuchy’s shot.
Overall a solid and entertaining performance from Didier Deschamps men which could well make some people sit up and take notice, they could certainly hurt teams with the passing range of Cabaye and power of Pogba and Matuidi in midfield. Special mention must also go to Mathieu Valbuena my man of the match, and at 29 it beggars belief that he is still playing his trade at the omnishambles at Marseille when his ability suggests he should be playing in the Champions League for a team in one of the big leagues.
My tips for the next round of games:
Switzerland v France: I rate Switzerland and despite a mishap for Ecuador’s goal they have proven themselves to be a solid defensive unit, France will not have it all their own way in this game and I suspect that both managers would in private admit that they would take a draw in this one. I expect this one to be tight.
Under 2.5 goals 17/20 MEDIUM STAKE
Match result: Draw 14/5 SMALL STAKE
Honduras v Ecuador: Favour Ecuador to win this game but I can’t back 13/20 at current odds. I made a decent wedge of money myself on Honduras cards in the France game with over 2.5 cards a steal at 10/11. Unfortunately I think the market may well react to that but there may still be value dependant on price. After all this lot are amongst the dirtiest gets I’ve seen on a football pitch. The market hasn’t been priced as of writing but Honduras most cards at 3/5 on Bwin looks good if you’re not prepared to wait, if you are I’d advise a large stake on over 3.5 Honduras cards if it is in an around EVENS.
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