There are routs, there are thrashings, and then there's what France did to Switzerland for 80 minutes on Friday afternoon: an unmerciful hammering, a defeat so thorough that you wouldn't be surprised if Switzerland just gave up soccer for a generation.
The Swiss managed to save a bit of face, and rattle the nerves of the French faithful, with two late goals that left the final score at 5-2. Ugly, but not quite catastrophic.
[Slideshow: France beats Switzerland 5-2 to take control of Group E ]
Coming into the match, France was ranked 17th in FIFA's rankings, while Switzerland was ranked sixth. Subjectivity of rankings aside, Switzerland had no answers for France on either end of the pitch. France needed only 16 minutes of observation to find the weak spot in Switzerland's defense: keeper Diego Benaglio.
Olivier Giroud scored first, on a header in traffic, and Blaize Matuidi followed just 67 seconds later. In both cases, Benaglio appeared to have at least a reasonable shot at a save, but just 17 minutes into the game, France had all but locked up a trip to the knockout round.
[Related: France are not the same as in 2010 ]
But the carnage had only just begun. France poured in five goals on Benaglio in every way imaginable: off headers, off breakaways, from distance, from up close. In all, five French players scored: Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema, and Moussa Sissoko. This marked the first time France had scored five goals in a World Cup game since 1958, and it ensured that this meeting would not go the way of the three previous draw matches between these two nations.
In the 80th minute, Switzerland managed to achieve a cosmetic goal, as Blerim Dzemaili drilled a long free-kick goal through a largely indifferent French wall. Granit Xhaka followed a few minutes later with a second goal that will help Switzerland's goal differential but little else.
Man of the Match
Karim Benzema took France's very first shot, a curler that just skirted around the right post of the Swiss goal, and he remained a gunner throughout the match. He finally netted his goal, France's fourth, in the 67th minute. With three goals overall, he now stands tied in the Golden Boot standings recognizing the World Cup's outstanding scorer. He could have had a hat trick had he converted a penalty kick, and had a last-second goal not been waved off by the referee.
You won't often see a goal this open missed this badly: Yohan Cabaye of France bangs one off the bar on a rebound from Benzema's failed penalty kick. Had France somehow lost, this would have loomed large.
Olivier Giroud (#9), he of the impeccable hair, heads a ball that will eventually become France's first goal of the afternoon.
France, almost assured of winning Group E, next faces Ecuador on Wednesday, and could lock up the group even earlier depending on the outcome of Friday's Honduras-Ecuador match. Switzerland, meanwhile, faces Honduras, also on Wednesday. France appears headed toward a game with Nigeria or Bosnia-Herzegovina, which could set up a final-eight showdown with Germany. That will be a must-watch match.
- Sports & Recreation
- Olivier Giroud