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World Cup Preview: Group E

 Posted by on June 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm  Blogs/Media
Jun 102014
images1 World Cup Preview: Group E

Ecuador, France, Honduras, and Switzerland will lock up in Group E. Who will come out on top?


Let’s be real: part of the fun in watching the World Cup is the office pools. Oh sure there is the happy hour matches, the flag waving, the freedom to saturate yourself completely in paint and not be seen as a raving sociopath. But perhaps the best thing about the World Cup is the ability to stick it to Steve from Accounting as you crush him with your football intellect and steal his money in the office pool. To hell with NCAA Football and the Oscars, this is your tournament.

The one thing that any solid office bracket needs is the ability to ride a couple of sneaky good teams deep into the tournament. Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and Italy are not all going to be good. There is always one team that looks “ok not bad” going into the tournament and then comes out of the gate and kicks butt. Uruguay and Ghana were those teams in 2010. In 1998 it was Croatia.

Who will be that team in 2014? If you are looking for the odds-on favorite go to Group E. A group that features one side looking to build off of a 2010 solid tournament (Switzerland,) a team looking for redemption (France,) and two teams looking for respect (Honduras and Ecuador) Group E features an array of talented teams and players. It would be easy to say that the two European teams have the edge. But you are a smart football fan and you know that Honduras is no easy out and that Ecuador is playing for much more than any other team in the tournament.

Who will make it out of Group E? Let’s find out.


Ecuador returns to the World Cup after having missed the 2010 edition. They very nearly missed out on this edition as well, only finishing above Uruguay for the automatic qualification spot on goal difference and only five points ahead of Venezuela. This is a side that will be playing with tremendous emotions as the team unfortunately lost their third all-time leading scorer, striker Christian Benitez, due to a car accident.

Of course, the name that everyone will recognize from this squad is Antonio Valencia of Manchester United. But the player that is really worth looking out for is Joao Roja of Cruz Azul. The 24 year old midfielder has taken off for the Liga MX side, helping lead his side to the 2013 Clausura and the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League title. He is a fast, engaging midfielder that can run rings around a defender and should open up space for the likes of forwards Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira) and Jaime Ayovi (Tijuana).

Although Ecuador will surprise some, there is something very important to understand about Ecuador: they struggle when not playing at altitude. Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa, Ecuador’s home stadium in Quito is an imposing fortress for the South American side. Playing at an elevation of 9, 127 feet above sea level is very hard for any team. But while their 7-1-0 (W-D-L) record at home is fantastic, their road record of 0-3-5 (W-D-L) should be alarming to Ecuadorean supporters. Given that all three of their matches (Brasilia, Curitiba, and Rio de Janeiro) will all be played in tropical climates, they could struggle in this tournament.



Franck Ribery’s pain is Antoine Griezmann’s gain. Although one would assume that France’s hopes for a serious run in this tournament were dashed with Ribery’s injury, don’t count out Les Bleus just yet. France manager Didier Deschamps has brought a very young, hungry side to Brazil. Only four players on the twenty-three man roster are over the age of 30. After a previous World Cup campaign that saw the team implode on itself in South Africa perhaps it was time for a changing of the guard.

Rather than opting to bring in malcontent forward Samri Nasri to replace Ribery, Deschamps has chosen to continue his work at changing the philosophy of French football. It was not an easy task during qualification. Although France finished comfortably in second in Group for UEFA Qualification, they very nearly missed out on the tournament; the French had to escape a two goal deficit to overcome the Ukraine in their two-legged playoff.

There is a certain balance to this team. It has veteran experience along the backline (Patrice Evra, Bakary Sagna, and Laurent Koscielny) and young, exciting attacking players that have already played significant minutes for their respective club teams (midfielders Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and Moussa Sissoko). That is a dangerous combination in a tournament like the World Cup.

The real question for this team, as with Switzerland, is can they get consistent scoring up front. While Ribery was not the entirety of the French offense, he did score five of the team’s fifteen goals during qualification. Deschamps will need forwards Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) and Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) to pick up the slack. Both Giroud and Benzema have played much better for their respective club teams than they have with France. Their relationship central midfielder Yohan Cabaye will be critical in setting up the French attack.


Los Catrachos finished in third place in CONCACAF Qualifying and will be making their third appearance at the World Cup. When you look at the Honduran roster it is littered with players who have either played in or are currently playing in Major League Soccer. Although it is a league that has been credited with improving American soccer, perhaps the greater impact of the league is being felt in CONCACAF where players who would have normally played in the recesses of semi-pro football are given the chance to play in a professional environment..

Honduras has come to Brazil with two goals in mind: scoring a goal and advancing. The first, pardon the pun, goal should be fairly easy to accomplish. Although Honduras has yet to score in their previous two appearances in the World Cup, this time seems very different. As previously mentioned, the ability to play outside of the Honduran Primera Division and receive meaningful minutes in MLS and in Europe has strengthened their attacking corps. The attacking duo of Jerry Bengston (New England Revolution) and Carlo Costly (Real Espana) led the team with nine goals and seven goals respectively.

The second goal will be a bit trickier. For this team to advance, they will need to rely on the spine of their team. Honduran manager Luis Fernando Suarez, who actually led Ecuador to the 2010 World Cup, may operate with a 4-5-1 because of the solid midfield play of Wilson Palacios (Stoke City,) Andy Najar (Anderlecht,) Oscar Bonniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo,) and Marvin Chavez (Chivas U.S.A.). The Honduran midfield’s ability to create opportunities for Bengston or Costly will be critical to this team’s success.

While their midfield is very good, their defense and squad depth is a concern. Against both Turkey and Israel, Honduras looked lost when their starting midfield was not on the field. While defenders Maynor Figueroa (Hull City) is a very tough, physical defender the rest of the back-line is suspect. Midfielders who can put balls to the outside will find gaping holes in the defense. That could spell trouble against the likes of France or Switzerland.


Perhaps it is because the Swiss are just so darn neutral in all facets of life but it feels like Switzerland get very little respect in international football. A side that demolished their opponents in World Cup Qualifying (7-3-0, 24 points) the Swiss will come back to the global stage with the same stifling defense that did not allow a goal in over 559 minutes of World Cup play between the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

When one considers that four of the six goals that Switzerland allowed were in a match against Iceland where the Swiss had already sewn up a World Cup spot it makes their recent form all that more impressive. Defender Stephan Lichsteiner has turned into one of the best center-backs in all of international football and helped lead Juventus to the Serie A title this past season.

Defense has never been a problem for the Swiss, it has been their offense that has given this team troubles. They squandered a great opportunity to advance in South Africa by only scoring one goal during group play (granted that was a 1-0 victory over Spain). The Swiss midfield features some of very attack-minded players including midfielders Gokhan Inler (Napoli,) Blerim Dzemalli (Napoli,) and Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich).

But the key for the Swiss in this group will be getting goals from the forward position. All four of the forwards that Swiss national team manager brought to Brazil (Josip Drmic, Admir Mehmedi, Mario Gavranovic, and Haris Seferovic) will be under the age of 24 and none of them have more than five goals with the national team. Both Ecuador and France will look to constrict the amount of space that the Swiss have to move and open up plays. This team will need to have their four young forwards if they stand a chance.

Player to Watch

Midfielder Andy Najar, Honduras

The first-ever MLS Homegrown Player to secure a European contract, he almost looks like a different than from the one that played for D.C. United for so many years. His passing, speed, work rate, and desire to go back on defense make him a tremendous asset for both Anderlecht and Honduras. Andy has all of the tools to be a dominating midfielder for the next ten years. With Champions League coming up in the fall, leading Honduras out of the group stage could be the next step towards a large European contract.

Group Winner/Runner-Up

Unfortunately Ecuador’s form on the road leaves me wary of picking them to go beyond the Group Stage. France all seems like a shoo-in for the next round given the make-up of their lineup and their recent run of form. The interesting choice seems to come between Switzerland and Honduras. In the previous World Cup, both teams met up in the final game which saw a 0-0 draw. Honduras has become a much more polished side in four years and should just narrowly be able to beat the Swiss in 2014 and move on to the next round.





Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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