France had to win a playoff with Ukraine to make the finals after losing just once in their qualifying group, to Spain by a single goal. The fact that they only got through via the playoffs has seen them underrated by many but they have the talent to go very deep into this tournament. Not only are the squad very talented but they have base of players that are used to winning at club level such as Ribery, Pogba and Benzema.
France won the World Cup in 1998 and were runners up in 2006. They’ve been beaten semi-finalists on three occasions. In 2010 and 2002 they failed to win match.
The worry with the French, as always, is that there will be divisions in the camp, a revolution or a multitude of Gallic shrugs should the first game not go 100% to plan. The garlic munchers’ questionable attitude is factored into their odds.
Switzerland were responsible for the biggest shock of the last World Cup group stages when beating eventual winners Spain in their first match and quite a few respected judges have them down as dark horses for this World Cup.
They cruised through their group winning seven of their ten matches and drawing the other three but the standard of opposition in the group was very suspect, with Iceland finishing second and Slovenia third.
There are two big question marks against their squad – can they score enough goals? and is their defence strong enough? Quite important questions i’d say.
Basle defender Fabian Schar was top scorer for them in qualifying with three goals and two of their mainstays at the back are former Arsenal players Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou. I’m unconvinced.
The Swiss made it out of the group stages in 1994 and 2006 and went out in round 1 in 2010. They’ve won nine matches from a total of 29 at the finals.
Ecuador finished fourth of nine in their qualifying group, winning seven of 16 games, drawing four and losing five. They were very strong at home, winning seven and drawing the other of their eight games. They did not disgrace themselves away from home either, losing by a single goal to Colombia, Paraguay and Chile and drawing in Uruguay and Bolivia.
Their form in the early part of qualifying was better than it has been recently as they’ve won just two of their last ten matches, drawing five and losing three but they had a creditable draw with Holland earlier this month and came back from 3-0 down to beat Australia 4-3 in March.
Ecuador have qualified for two previous World Cups, in 2006 when they made the round of 16 and 2002 when they went out at the first stage.
Honduras finished third of six behind the USA and Costa Rica in qualifying, winning four, drawing three and losing three. They scored 13 and conceded 12.
They went to the 1982 and 2010 finals but are yet to win a match.
That’s as much as i know about the Hondurans so moving along swiftly..
France should be too strong for the other three teams and are a safe bet at $1.80 to win the group with and when the ‘specials’ markets come out i’ll be interested in France to win all three of their games in group E.