Les Bleus score five in rampant win to all
The former Argentina international believes that the Juventus duo are a class part, hailing the pair for their ability to make a difference in any game
So here is the good news for England – and it has been delivered by the French. Exactly four years to the day since a players’ strike in South Africa heaped shame on France and turned the one-time World Cup winners into a national embarrassment, Les Bleus showed they are once again a force to be reckoned with by destroying Switzerland in Salvador.
It can be done. Abject failure can lead to renewal and, from the depths of despair and ignominy, France are contenders again.
Any team with such pace, firepower and self-belief must be taken seriously at this World Cup and, with a comfortable passage to the last eight, Didier Deschamps’ players might just be overlooked long enough to leave their mark on the tournament.
They certainly left an impression on Switzerland – England’s Euro 2016 qualifying-group rivals – with first-half goals from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena ending this game as a contest by half-time.
Karim Benzema’s second-half goal, from Paul Pogba’s exquisite pass, and another fine finish by Moussa Sissoko merely ensured the scoreline reflected France’s absolute dominance.
“Karim is confirming that he’s in very, very good form. He’s in great shape athletically,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “His happiness is a joy to behold, he’s one of the best players in the world.”
France raced into a two-goal lead in the opening 18 minutes by simply overpowering the opposition in midfield.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said: “I am very disappointed with our defeat, it was truly a very bleak day for us. The double attack really broke us.
“When you play against a strong and classical team and go 2-0 down, it is hard to come back because our opponents were just waiting for our mistakes, they were able to make many counter attacks and we were having to play France’s game.”
Switzerland took too long to overcome the sight of seeing centre-half Steve von Bergen leave the field with a head wound following a kick in the face from Giroud.
Hitzfeld complained angrily to the fourth official that Giroud had gone unpunished, but the coach and his players were guilty of losing their concentration and France ruthlessly took advantage.
Giroud, restored to the starting line-up after complaining about being dropped for the Group E opener against Honduras, set France on their way with a stunning headed goal from Valbuena’s corner.
The Arsenal forward rose above his marker to score from six yards, despite goalkeeper Diego Benaglio’s outstretched hand almost stopping the ball.
Benaglio could arguably have done better, but there was no doubt about his responsibility for the second French goal, which followed less than 60 seconds later.
A careless back-pass by Velon Behrami was collected by Benzema and the Real Madrid forward unselfishly laid the ball off to Matuidi, who had powered down the left flank, before seeing Paris St-Germain midfielder beat Benaglio at the near post. Switzerland, who claimed an injury-time victory against Ecuador in their opening game, were shell-shocked.
But they stemmed the tide on 32 minutes when Benaglio saved Benzema’s penalty – Yoann Cabaye struck the rebound against the crossbar – after the forward had been tripped by Johan Djourou.
It was a brief respite, however. France scored a deserved third goal five minutes before the interval, when Giroud raced away before squaring for Valbuena to score from close range.
With Admir Mehmedi missing a golden chance to reduce the arrears for Switzerland, when he shot over from the French crossbar from
close range after 65 minutes, Switzerland’s slim hopes of a dramatic fightback evaporated.
Moments later, the impressive Benzema converted Pogba’s pass to score a fourth, before Sissoko gave France an overwhelming five-goal lead on 73 minutes.
Blerim Dzemaili’s 81st minute free-kick through a hopeless French wall, followed by a well-executed Granit Xhaka volley, dented France’s winning margin, but Deschamps’s team will not care too much about that.
Their sights are already on the knockout stages as they continue down their road to redemption.
By Mark Ogden / The Telegraph
Switzerland 2-5 France Watch Highlights
France 3-0 Honduras
Rest of Europe
World Cup 2014