by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 20th 2014)
France made a mockery of the recent FIFA rankings. Ottmar Hitzfeld saw his 6th ranked Swiss taken apart by Didier Deschampsʼ team ranked eleven below them. 5-0 up with ten minutes to go the French switched off as Switzerland grabbed two late goals and there was still time for shades of Clive Thomas as Karim Benzema scored a stunning goal in the fourth of at least three minutes injury time after being found on the edge of the area by Moussa Sissokho.
Referee Björn Kuipers had already blown the final whistle. It hardly mattered to France who have two wins a goal difference of +6. But Switzerland now have a negative goal difference of -2. They will be watching Ecuador versus Honduras with interest hoping they cancel each other out.
Arsenalʼs Olivier Giroud replaced Juventus midfield starlet Paul Pogba in the starting line-up. He justified Deschampsʼ faith after 17 minutes, rising highest to head Mathieu Valbuenaʼs corner so powerfully that Diego Benaglio could not keep it out despite getting a hand to it. Seconds later it was two as Blaise Matuidi latched onto Karim Benzemaʼs through ball. His shot beat Benaglio at his near post – poor goal-keeping. France were rampant.
It took 27 minutes for the Swiss to penetrate the French defences, but Granit Xhakaʼs strike was rightly disallowed. It almost went from bad to abysmal less than five minutes later. The Ivorian-born former Arsenal man Johan Djourou-Gbadjeri tripped Benzema to concede a penalty. The Real Madrid striker blew the opportunity to open his account for the night as Benaglio saved to his right.
The rebound fell to former Newcastle United midfielder Yoann Cabaye. It was easier to hit the deserted net than miss, but Cabaye managed to hit the cross-bar. The reprieve was short-lived. A quick break released Giroud on the left. His cross to the back post was swept in by Valbuena.
France could have settled for what they had, but after weathering an early second half storm led by substitute Blerim Dzemali. France regrouped and after 67 minutes Benzema finally got his goal. He could and possibly should have had a hat-trick. Pogba put him through for Benzema to put it through Benaglioʼs legs to score.
Six minutes later Swiss captain Gökhan Inler gave possession away, resulting in a quick break. Benzema delivered to Sissokho at the back post. Newcastle Unitedʼs midfielder completed the scoring for les Bleus. A small degree of Swiss honour was restored thanks to dreadful defending at a free kick especially by Benzema.
Dzemaliʼs free-kick went through the French wall to beat Lloris at his right-hand post. With three minutes of normal time remaining Inler set Xhaka up at the back post to beat Lloris once again to boost Switzerlandʼs battered goal difference. Benzemaʼs late strike didnʼt count. It remains to be seen how important that turns out to be.