Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup Group E Update

Though Group E is generally considered to be one of the less talented groups, the first two games were fairly entertaining, as Switzerland emerged victorious over Ecuador 2-1 with a late goal and France beat Honduras by a score of 3-0 after an early red card caused Honduras to play the remainder of the game with ten men.

What We Learned About Switzerland - The Swiss did not play well enough against Ecuador, that is, if they wish to live up to their lofty world ranking. Despite having possession for much of the game, they looked very uncreative in attack and fashioned very few clear cut chances. Despite their offensive shortcomings, they were solid in defense (Ricardo Rodriguez had 2 assists as left back and Johan Djourou was a wall) and the midfield held the ball extremely well (Inler and Behrami were fantastic). Switzerland will need their offensive stars like Josip Drmic and Xherdan Shaqiri to start performing if they wish to go anywhere after the group stages, but us neutral fans cannot complain with the exciting finish we got to see from the Swiss against Ecuador.
Switzerland's Best Player - Johan Djourou, Center Back - Was the best player on the pitch all game long, making clutch tackle after clutch tackle.
Switzerland's Worst Player - Stephan Lichtsteiner, Right Back - Was decent defensively but struggled immensely with the final product. Didn't produce a single quality cross - understandably, each of Switzerland's goals came from the opposite (left) side of the pitch, where Ricardo Rodriguez had a fantastic game in contrast to Lichtsteiner.

What We Learned About Ecuador - The big hit on Ecuador coming into this game is that they are very one-dimensional, playing almost exclusively through Manchester United's Antonio Valencia. However, against Switzerland they proved that they are much more than just that, regardless of the final result. Jefferson Montero was explosive and inventive down the left wing and Enner Valencia provided a target up front for a team that usually sees its offense transpire down the right side of the field. Not only did they look decent on offense, but the defense also absorbed pressure very well and goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez was a true bright spot. Their chances of getting past Switzerland and France are still slim, but that's not to say that they can't make it tight.
Ecuador's Best Player - Enner Valencia, Striker - Was a powerful force up front and popped up all over the place. Also detached from his man on a set piece to score Ecuador's only goal.
Ecuador's Worst Player - Cristhian Noboa, Center Midfielder - One of Ecuador's few European players, but failed to do anything positive for Ecuador against Switzerland. Sloppy in possession and fairly invisible.

What We Learned About France - As far as their performance on the field, they looked pretty impressive, which isn't saying too much seeing as they were up against a 10-men honduras side. However, French fans will be even more enjoyed to see that the off the field problems of the previous world cup don't seem to be present this year. Many of the players from that 2010 fiasco have been replaced, but even those that have remained, like left back Patrice Evra, seemed extremely invested in the team as a whole. France took care of business against Honduras and now have to be considered clear favorites in a fairly weak group.
France's Best Player - Karim Benzema, Striker - Great finishing and extremely useful up top. Also provided good passes to his wingers on either side.
France's Worst Player - Mamadou Sakho, Center Back - Had a couple nervy moments although you never truly expected France to be beaten.

What We Learned About Honduras - Considering the relative success of CONCACAF teams so far in the World Cup, people were expecting that Honduras might make some noise against France. Instead, Honduras put together an incredibly poor effort where they spent more time making rash challenges than actually trying for a goal. They were punished for their poor tactics when they earned an early red card that really took them out of the game. Costa Rica showed how a smaller team can overcome a world power in their game against Uruguay, but Honduras failed to follow in their steps and should, frankly, be embarrassed.
Honduras' Best Player - Roger Espinoza, Attacking Midfielder - Easily Honduras' best player going forward, which may not be saying too much.
Honduras' Worst Player - Wilson Palacios, Center Midfielder - Stupid, stupid, stupid play early in the game that caused him to be sent off and put Honduras in a huge hole.

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