Expectations: part five
Here is my fifth part:
Group E: Switzerland
Strengths: Switzerland has qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil by leading its group with seven victories and three draws. The squad didn't only score seventeen goals but also only conceeded six goals. In the last twenty-four months, the Swiss team has only lost one out of eighteen games. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the Swiss squad was the only team that was able to defeat future champions Spain with a 1:0 victory at group stage. The Swiss squad has the advantage that it is underestimated and plays without any pressure in this tournament. The squad also convinces with a young and dynamical squad and the fact that the players all know each other very well as they are all involved in German, Italian or Swiss clubs apart of Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa F.C.). The tournament is also the last for their German manager Ottmar Hitzfeld who is one of the best managers in the world and surely desires to finish its international career with a respectable result.
Weak points: The Swiss squad hasn't won any international title and never went further than the quarter finals in the World Cup history. Their European Championship record is even worse as the country only qualified for three out of fourteen tournaments with one that took place in their country where the squad didn't need to qualify for. The Swiss squad even missed the last tournament that took place in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
Expectations: The Swiss squad might make it to the round of 16 this year because it os currently on form, can play without any pressure and might be able to surprise a few teams.
Swiss squad from June 3, 2014 against Peru (copyright: Getty Images)
Group E: Ecuador
Strengths: Ecuador will surely get pushed by the enthusiastic fans in South America and will have no problem at all with the humid and warm climate. The team has a very experienced squad as only three out of twenty-three players have less than ten caps for the national team. The players now each other well and seem to have a good team spirit.
Weak points: The country played only an average qualification, finishing fourth out of ten teams in South America. The squad could never win any big tournament as has only qualified three times for a World Cup so far. The team's preparation for the World Cup was also of an average quality only. So far in 2014, Ecuador won one match, lost one match and had two draws in four games. The team is also lacking a star player that could make the difference.
Expectations: Despite the South American enthusiasm, Ecuador won't go very far in this tournament.
Ecuador' squad on October 11, 2013 against Uruguay (copyright: Reuters / Kevin Granja)
Group E: France
Strengths: The French squad includes numerous star players from many different internetional top leagues. It starts with goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur F.C.), it goes on with defenders like Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal F.C.) and Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid C.F.), midfielders like Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain F.C.) and Paul Pogba (Juventus F.C.) and finally strikers like Karim Benzema (Real Madrid C.F.) and Olivier Giroux (Arsenal F.C.). After several refreshing changes, the squad also includes several promising young talents like defender Eliaquim Mangala (F.C. Porto) and midfielder Antoine Griezman (Real Sociedad) who haven't even played ten caps so far.
Weak points: The French squad didn't qualify directly for the World Cup because the players weren't able to beat the Spanish squad. On the other side, the French squad still couldn't convince in its play-off matches where they were very lucky to beat the Ukrainian squad in two chaotic games. The squad's 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was a disaster when players would start a rebellion against their own manager Raymond Domenech and France didn't survive the group stage. Fan support in France has somewhat decreased after these questionable events even though the French Football Federation desperately tries to polish the image of the French squad. Many players though have very different ethnic origins and are also playing in quite different leagues all around Europe which might have a negative impact on the team spirit as well. As if these problems were not enough, the team can't count on its best player Franck Ribéry (FC Bayern Munich) because of a back injury.
Expectations: France will try to polish its image and make its fans forget what happened four years earlier and in order to do so they will have to survive the group stage and should at least make it to the quarter finals. On the other side, games are not won on paper...
France's squad on June 8, 2014 against Jamaica (copyright: Jacques Brinon / AP Photo)
Group E: Honduras
Strengths: Honduras are the underdogs of the tournament, can play without any pressure and might surprise some of the bigger teams with a strong fan support behind them and a quick adaption to the humid and warm climate in Brazil. The players in the squad all know each other very well and only goalkeeper Luiz Lopez Fernandez (Real C.D. Espana) is an absolute newcomer. The most experienced players are goalkeeper Noel Valladares (Club Deportivo Olimpia) with 122 caps, defender Maynor Figueroa (Hull City A.F.C.) with 105 caps, midfielder Wilson Palacios (Stoke City F.C.) with 95 caps, midfielder Oscar Garcia (Houston Dynamo) with 92 caps and defender Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes) with 78 caps. In addition to this, the team can count on two successful strikers with Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution) who has scored 19 goals in 44 caps and Carlo Costly (Real C.D. Espana) who has even scored 31 goals in 70 caps.
Weak points: It's a fact that Honduras has an incredibly strong team spirit as the players know each other very well but this is due to the fact that eleven out of twenty-three players are still or again playing in the rather weak domestic league. The squad is internationally unexperienced as they have only qualified twice for a World Cup before this year and couldn't win any World Cup game so far. In addition to this, Honduras could only win one out of its last six friendly games that were supposed to prepare them for thsi year's World Cup.
Expectations: It would be more than just a surprise if Honduras was able to survive the group stage. In my opinion, they will have a great experience in Brazil and go back home with three losses against international top teams. Hondura's time will certainly come but they are not there yet in 2014.
Honduras' squad on May 29, 2014 against Turkey (copyright: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)« Expectations for the FIFA World Cup 2014 - part VExpectations for the FIFA World Cup 2014 - part VI »