SWITZERLAND (Seeded Team)
Switzerland National Team Playing Style and Formation
Style & formation: The current Swiss side adopts a delightful passing style of play as well as pin opposing sides to their own half when they attack. They play with a lot more intensity and attacking urge, which is clearly a different approach to their game as compared with their displays at South Africa 2010.
The normally deploy two defensive midfielders who sit in front of the back line and act as their first defensive line, albeit one of them being tasked to quickly dash forward on offense. Bayern Munich’s rising star Xherdan Shaqiri starts on the far end of the right flank in a 4-2-3-1 tactical setup but frequently occupies a central position, permitting the offensively ruthless right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner to surge towards the opposition’s defensive area. The combination play between the duo is an essential factor of the team’s offensive approach.
Strengths: The left-footed winger Shaqiri is one of the most highly-rated young talents in Europe this past football season. He helps to make Switzerland tick upfield. Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodríguez are very effective wing-backs; they are provide a lot of the team’s energy with their bursting runs forward, hence it comes as no big surprise that they collectively provided the most goal assists by a full-back or a defensive wing player for that matter in their respective leagues in the 2013/2014 season.
Weaknesses: The most obvious area of weakness lies in the lack of quality in central defensive positions. The Swiss team can be found wanting at times when opposing sides go on the counter, particularly down the right wing when Lichtsteiner charges into attack and Shaqiri fails to provide the much needed cover. Deep in attack, Josip Drmić has made his mark as a highly-rated striker for his club Bayer Leverkusen but not for the Swiss national team. Most Valuable Player
The 22-year-old Kosovo-born Xherdan Shaqiri is undoubtedly the star of this current Swiss side even though he is still a bit-part player for German champion Bayern Munich. He is the heartbeat for his national side.
He is a very intelligent and burly player, who uses his left-foot to his advantage on the right wing when attacking, with the freedom to operate from a more central position. He suffered three hamstring tears last season, which should be a cause for concern going into the Brazil 2014 tournament. Player To Watch
Josip Drmić could be the breaking star forward for Switzerland in Brazil this summer. An exceptional 2013/2014 season saw him make a move from Nürnberg to Bayer Leverkusen. He banged in a brace in a March friendly against Croatia, where his parents hail from. Head Coach
Ottmar Hitzfeld is the current manager of the side and will end his six-year tenure as head coach after leading his charges at the World Cup. The 65-year old German has done a yeoman’s job of introducing a bunch of young talents into his squad, after missing out on qualifying for Euro 2012. His major accomplishment was winning 19 major club trophies including two UEFA Champions League crowns. Road to Brazil
Switzerland punched their ticket with a match to spare for the first time in their qualifying history, completing an unbeaten streak in a relatively weak group made up of Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, Albania and Cyprus. They also impressively managed to not concede in seven out of their 10 qualifying matches. World Cup Achievements
The Swiss have reached three quarter-finals, but none since hosting the tournament in 1954.
In 2010, they failed to get out of their group despite an opening 1-0 win over champions Spain.
FIFA Ranking: 6 Final 23-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg), Roman Buerki (Grasshopper), Yann Sommer (Basel).
Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Michael Lang (Grasshopper), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schaer (Basel), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Reto Ziegler (Sassuolo).
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Valentin Stocker (Basel).
Forwards: Josip Drmić (Nürnberg), Mario Gavranović (Zurich), Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg), Haris Seferovic (Real Sociedad), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach ).
Ecuador Football Team Prospects
Ecuador is a South American side which focuses mainly on wing play, and it will take something special to see them go far in the World Cup. They heavily depend on wingers Antonio Valencia, the captain of the side, who utilizes his pace and strength down the right flank as well as his regular aerial and low-cutting deliveries into the opposition’s defensive area, and Monarcas Morelia’s Jefferson Montero, who operates on the left wing, using his skill and trickery to get past his markers. The wing-backs also play as supporting wingers, which helps to fuel the attack.
This style of play has proven over time to be very effective, especially when going on a counter attack, nonetheless, a tactical formation which makes use of two players on the flanks to add width to the attack, has increased chances of leaving the center of the back-line dangerously exposed. Such a scenario will undoubtedly lead to the side conceding goals if the necessary adjustments are not made.
The untimely death of forward Christian Rogelio Benítez in the summer of 2013, was a major blow to Ecuador’s hopes in Brazil, as no player has been able to fill in the void, which has left the engine of attack, the midfield somewhat unbalanced. Most Valuable Player
Jefferson Montero has proven to be the key player in the current La Tri (Tri-color) squad. Montero’s performance in Brazil will be crucial in determining if the South Americans can punch their ticket to the knockout phase of the Copa Mundial . Head Coach Reinaldo Rueda attests to skill set of the left winger although he expects more consistency from the star. Rueda had this to say about his most valuable player: ‘He’s the kind of player spectators love to watch because he plays like a kid in the street, throwing opponents off balance.’
The 24-year-old Mexico-based Montero could be on a summer move to Europe, following his delightful displays for his club. Player to Watch
Christian Noboa plays a fundamental role in Ecuador’s tactical approach on both ends of the pitch. The 29-year-old Dynamo Moscow midfielder, has the eye for stringing any kind of pass together on the field of play. He regularly distributes the ball to the wingers and also provides a shield for Ecuador’s relatively weak central defense by sitting in front of the back four.
The 57-year old Colombian Reinaldo Rueda is the current manager of the Ecuadorian national team. He has been at the helm of affairs since 2010 after being in charge of Ecuador’s Group E opponents Honduras from 2006 to 2010, a team he guided to their first World Cup appearance in South Africa, following a 28-year absence from the biggest soccer fiesta. He had a very disappointing start to his reign as Ecuador’s manager, after his side failed to win a game at the 2011 Copa America tournament. He quickly turned around the catastrophic first-year performance, rebuilt the team, and introduced a new burst of confidence into his squad. Road to Brazil
Ecuador were in a comfortable second spot in the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL) standings after the first 10 qualifying matches, but they only managed one victory in their final six games. A crucial victory over rivals Uruguay is what helped them clinch the last South American qualifying berth for this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
Head Coach Reinaldo Rueda admirably dedicated their qualification to the World Cup to departed star Christian Benítez, who unexpectedly passed away in July of 2013 due to a heart failure.
The Ecuadorians only gave up two points on home turf but could not register a single win away from Quito, which was tough to play in as a result of nauseating altitude. World Cup Achievements
Ecuador made their first World Cup appearance at Japan/Korea 2002, where their campaign ended with a bottom-placed finish. Four years later in Germany, they secured two victories in the group stage only to bow out to England in the round of 16.
FIFA Ranking: 26 Final 23-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona SC), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Adrian Bone (El Nacional).
Defenders: Frickson Erazo (Flamengo), Jorge Guagua, Oscar Bagui, Gabriel Achilier (all Emelec), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona SC).
Midfielders: Segundo Castillo (Al-Hilal), Carlos Gruezo (Stuttgart), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Cristian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow), Luis Saritama (Barcelona SC), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Edison Mendez (Independiente Santa Fe), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Michael Arroyo (Atlante).
Forwards: Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira), Jefferson Montero (Morelia), Joao Rojas (Cruz Azul), Jaime Ayovi (Tijuana), Enner Valencia (Pachuca).
France Football Team Prospects
The current Les Bleus squad has managed to weather the storm, following an abysmal performance in South Africa four years ago. They bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Ukraine in a World Cup play-off after placing second to current world champion Spain in the preliminary qualifying round.
The French battled through and turned around their disappointing loss in Kiev and managed to seal the much anticipated victory in Saint-Denis in the return leg to book their place in Brazil. Their two previous World Cup campaigns were marred by unfortunate tournament-ruining incidents -the infamous Zinedine Zidane’s sending off in the 110th minute of the World Cup final in 2006 after headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest, then came the Nicolas Anelka dismissal from the national team four years later after purportedly having a row, in which there were unpleasant exchanges with head coach Raymond Domenech during half-time of the team’s loss to Mexico.
France had a wonderful preparation ahead of Brazil 2014, beating the Netherlands 2-0 in March, Norway 4-0 in May, drawing 1-1 with Paraguay, before thumping Jamaica by 8-0. However, they lost the very influential and game-changing Franck Ribéry to injury, which dashed some hopes on the eve of the greatest football tournament.
Most Valuable Player
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is the key man in this French side. He experienced a low when he lost his spot last year for not performing as expected for the national team, as he was without a goal in as many as 15 matches. On the contrary, he has managed to find his rhythm in the French’s newly adopted three-man attack with six goals in his last six World Cup qualifying and international friendly games combined as of June 11.
The 26-year-old Benzema finished last season on a bright note for Real Madrid, banging in 24 goals for the club in all competitions after a slow start for him in the campaign.
Player to Watch
The 21-year-old midfielder Paul Pogba is the rising star in the French team, as he has made a name for himself since leaving Manchester United to join Italian Serie A champion Juventus in 2012. It came as no surprise when he was voted the European best Under-21 player for 2013. The young and gifted player adds a lot of value for both club and country
France coach Didier Deschamps has heaped praises on Pogba for his work rate and quality although he opines that the future top star must learn to adopt ‘the highest level concentration and application’.
The experienced France ’98 World Cup-winning captain, Didier Deschamps took over as manager after Euro 2012 tournament.
He had a very disappointing first year on the job but he had a strong will to build a very vigorous side that takes the game to the opposition, and that has given the French squad a new identity. He has also introduced harmony and a spirit of togetherness in the team after player unrest at the last two major competitions. Road to Brazil
The French overturned a two-goal deficit in the play-offs, convincingly defeating Ukraine by a 3-0 scoreline on home soil although a goal from Karim Benzema should have been ruled for offside. In the build up to the second leg, a vast majority of French fans had written off Les Bleus . France had to qualify through the play-offs after falling behind Spain in their group. World Cup Achievements
France captured the world title on home soil in 1998, finished as runners-up in 2006 and reached the last four in 1958, 1982 and 1986. One interesting trend to note is that away from Europe, they have managed to reach the knockout phase once, which was at Mexico ’86.
FIFA Ranking: 17 Final 23-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Stephane Ruffier (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia).
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Lucas Digne (Paris St-Germain) Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna (both Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi (both Paris St-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Remy Cabella (Montpellier), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (Newastle, on loan from QPR).
Honduras National Team Prospects
Los Catrachos or La Bicolor as the Honduran national team is popularly known, qualified for their second World Cup finals after missing out for a good 28 years, when they marked their return to football’s biggest stage in South Africa in 2010. Honduras head coach Luis Fernando Suárez believes ‘it’s time to take the next step’. The Central American side will be targeting their first World Cup win this time in South America, although it is not far-fetched for the bookmakers to assert that Honduras are tournament outsiders.
The Hondurans impose their physical presence on the opposition and they adopt the 4-4-2 tactical system. They rely heavily on their full-backs joining the attack and posing problems when they go on a counter attack. Set- pieces could prove very advantageous and also form an integral part of this side’s chances of reaching the round of 16 by causing upsets. Most Valuable Player
Jerry Bengtson was the outstanding player in Honduras’ World Cup qualifying campaign, banging in an impressive nine goals in the run to Brazil. He plays so important a role for his national team that he was pardoned for turning his back on the squad prior to a match last summer.
The 27-year-old Bengtson, has not made a notable mark yet for his Major League Soccer side New England Revolution as much as he has found the back of the net for his country. He poses a lot of threat when he goes head-on with aerial balls. Player to Watch
The 21-year-old Andy Najar is one of the brightest prospects for the Honduras national team. He opted to play his native country over the USA, as he did not want to wait in vain to gain eligibility to feature for the Stars and Stripes.
Najar plays for Belgian side Anderlecht, which claimed their third consecutive league title. He has quick feet and can easily adapt to different styles of play. His starting position is not assured but he definitely adds another dimension in attack due to his playing style. Head Coach
Luis Fernando Suárez
The 54-year-old Colombian Luis Fernando Suárez is the manager of Los Catrachos, and has had a taste of the World Cup, having led South American side Ecuador to the second round for the first time at Germany 2006, where they were booted out of the competition by England.
Suárez guided Honduras to the semi-finals of the last two Gold Cup tourneys and also managed the Olympic team that had an impressive run to the quarter-finals at London 2012. Road to Brazil
Their qualifying campaign saw them finish in third place in the final round, albeit not conceding goals in 2 out of 10 games. Stellar performances saw them claim crucial 2-1 wins on home turf agaist the USA and away to Mexico, before going on to draw 2-2 in Jamaica to seal their participation in the Copa Mundial . World Cup record
The Central Americans could not register a single win in their last two appearances at the finals (1982 and 2010), as they managed to secure 3 draws and 3 disappointing losses. They went scoreless in South Africa four years ago when they lost to Chile and Spain, but bowed out with pride after a tie with the Swiss.
FIFA Ranking: 33 Final 23-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Noel Valladares, Donis Escober (both Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana).
Defenders: Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Juan Carlos Garcia (Wigan), Maynor Figueroa (Hull), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Osman Chavez (Qingdao Janoon), Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua).
Midfielders: Edder Delgado (Real Espana), Luis Garrido (Olimpia), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Jorge Claros (Motagua), Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Oscar Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Marvin Chavez (Chivas USA).
Forwards: Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense), Carlo Costly (Real Espana), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad). Fixtures
15 June 2014
Switzerland v Ecuador, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 16:00 (GMT)
15 June 2014
France v Honduras, Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 19:00 (GMT)
20 June 2014
Switzerland v France, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 19:00 (GMT)
20 June 2014
Honduras v Ecuador, Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, 22:00 (GMT)
25 June 2014
Honduras v Switzerland, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 20:00 (GMT)
25 June 2014
Ecuador v France, Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, 20:00 (GMT)
Watch We Are One (Ole Ola) [The Official Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Song] (Olodum Mix) by Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte:
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