Sunday, December 17, 2017

Salvador thriller in the making

There’s much more than three points at stake in this afternoon’s World Cup Group E encounter between between France and its neighbour Switzerland. Whoever wins the match can assure themselves of a berth in the round of 16 while a draw may just throw the group wide open and make their last round robin match that more challenging.

France opened its campaign with a facile 3-0 win over Honduras while the Swiss claimed a 2-1 victory against Ecuador and with both teams having three points in the bag, the pressure is on. France still holds the unenviable record of being the first defending champion to crash out of the World Cup at the group stage without winning a game or scoring a goal in 2002, and despite taking the runner-up position behind Italy four years later, the memory may still linger with the team.

Coach Didier Deschamps, having captained Les Bleus to victory in 1998, will be looking to create his own piece of history by joining an elite group of footballers to have won the World Cup both as a player and coach.

Switzerland, on the other hand, is no roll over. They have their own World Cup pedigree with three quarterfinal appearances (1934, 1938 and 1954) and based on their current highest-ever ranking of sixth, they will be seeking to put one over on their neighbour. The Swiss also has a memory they would like to erase after they set a World Cup record in 2006 by being eliminated from the competition despite not conceding a goal after losing to Ukraine in a penalty shootout in the round of 16.

So how do the two teams stack up against each other? France has the better head-to-head record; winning 15 games compared to 12 for the Swiss, while there have been nine draws during their 36 previous encounters. And fans in Salvador will be expecting another goal fest after witnessing 10 scored in the two matches played at the venue; six in the Netherland – Spain encounter and four in Germany’s rout of Portugal.