France's head coach Didier Deschamps, right, celebrates with his players and staff members after defeating Ukraine on Nov. 19, 2013, to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
This is the fifth post in a series previewing the World Cup's eight groups. Read Group A,Group B, Group C and Group D; then check back later this week for looks at groups F, G and H.
The 2014 World Cup's Group E is headlined by France, which will look to avoid the utter meltdown that marked its 2010 campaign. In a group that lacks any truly dominant teams, however, anyone can (somewhat) reasonably hope to advance to the World Cup's knockout stage.
But who does what well? Who are the players you need to watch? Who will ultimately flame out early and miss the round of 16?
All that (and more!) shall be revealed right here in our 10-minute guide to Group E.
The teams (FIFA world ranking in parenthesis)
- Switzerland (8)
- France (16)
- Ecuador (28)
- Honduras (30)
The 2010 World Cup could not have gone any worse for France. Two months before the tournament, the team was rocked by an underage prostitution scandal. Mid-World Cup, one of its best players flipped out on the coach and was kicked off the team. Other players refused to practice in retaliation. The squad didn't win a game in group play and failed to reach the knockout stage.
Now, guess what? Les Bleus already have a head-start on dysfunction heading into this year's tournament: Manchester City star Samir Nasri was left off manager Didier Deschamps' World Cup roster; his model and pop singer girlfriend, Anara Atanes, laid into Deschamps and the French Football Federation in an expletive-laded Twitter outburst; Deschamps and the federation said they plan to sue Atanes in response.
Good times! But seriously, France sill has a talented squad behind Franck Ribéry, Karim Benzema, Patrice Evra and others. They're more than capable of advancing — provided they can avoid a meltdown encore.
Ecuador, meanwhile, boasts one of the World Cup's most intriguing storylines — albeit one marred by tragedy. Star striker Christian Benitez unexpectedly died in July 2013 after leading the team's qualifying charge. But La Tri still has some good players, led by Manchester United's Antonio Valencia and is worth keeping and eye on because of its unique backstory.
Switzerland is very talented but very young — meaning it could go either way as far as qualifying for the knockout stage. Honduras shouldn't be discounted, but is probably the odd one out here when it comes to having a real chance to move on.
The schedule (all times in ET)
- Switzerland versus Ecuador, June 15, Brasilia, 12 p.m.
- France versus Honduras, June 15, Porto Alegre, 3 p.m.
- Switzerland versus France, June 20, Salvador, 3 p.m.
- Honduras versus Ecuador, June 20, Curitiba, 6 p.m.
- Honduras versus Switzerland, June 25, Manaus, 4 p.m.
- Ecuador versus France, June 25, Rio de Janeiro, 4 p.m.
4 players to watch
Franck Ribéry (France): Ribéry plays club ball for German power Bayern Munich. He's swift, skilled and can dribble around almost any defender — making him a joy to watch, even if you only tune into soccer when the World Cup rolls around every four years.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland): Just 22 years old, the hyper-talented Shaqiri is already playing in his second World Cup. He may not be a familiar name to most soccer fans, thanks to being stuck on the Bayern Munich bench behind a host of talented and more experienced attackers including Ribéry. But Shaqiri, an ethnic Albanian whose family emigrated to Switzerland, is well worth keeping an eye on for what he might do in Brazil — and in the future.
Antonio Valencia (Ecuador): Not only is Valencia arguably Ecuador's best player — he also was very close with Benitez and has posted numerous heartfelt tributes online since his comrade's shocking death. He's a winger for Manchester United but been frustrated by a lack of playing time there. Let's see if can show the world what he's capable of on an even bigger stage.
Jerry Bengtson (Honduras): A forward for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, Bengston is tall, strong and has a nose for the goal. If Honduras is to make a surprise run in Group E, Bengston will play an important role.
There's no way Les Bleus are as dysfunctiona; in 2014 as they were in 2010, right?Right? We think they'll keep it together and advance to the knockout stage — possibly even making a run there thanks to established talent and newcomer Paul Pogba. Other than France, though? Our mind says Switzerland but our head says Ecuador. We predictLa Tri pulls off a shocker in memory of its late striker. France and Ecuador to the knockout stage; Switzerland and Honduras sent packing.
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