The Colorado Rapids sales and service staff put together previews of each World Cup group, and we will be running their perspective and predictions ahead of each group opening. Group E preview is written by Account Executive Eli Santow.
France: Despite their horrendous showing last time around. France remains one of the few perennial contenders for the World Cup trophy. The pool of talent that they have to draw from is one of the world’s elite, with all of their players competing in major leagues in Europe. With veterans like Karim Benzema and Hugo Lloris, and young players like Paul Pogba, France is one of the scarier looking teams in the tournament (on paper, at least). If they can find a way to cut down on the major lapses in concentration that proved to be costly in South Africa, expect to see France easily run out winners in group E, and continue to cause serious problems for their opponents deep into the tournament.
Ecuador: As with all good teams, this unit knows its weaknesses and its strengths. Because Ecuador lacks a creative playmaker in the center of their midfield, they will have to rely on the speed of their wing play. If Ecuador is to have any goal-scoring success, players such as Antonia Valencia and Jeff Montero will have to have an immediate and constant impact throughout the tournament. Ecuador’s back line is also depleted with the likes of Jairo Campos and Frinkson Erazo injured and struggling for minutes respectively. In most of the other groups, Ecuador might struggle or even fail to qualify, but in this group, if they can find the right attacking formula and some semblance of defensive stability, they should find themselves through to the next round.
Honduras: Honduras is somewhat of an enigma. A squad with quality all over the pitch, but without any real star power worthy of international recognition. A perfect example of this is Emilio Izaguirre. A lock for the left-back position, Izaguirre is not afraid to join the attack, but is not much of a goal-scoring threat himself. His lack of stats just goes to show that the ball has a hard time operating in his area of the pitch. Having a solid player like this to lock down an area of the pitch is a must-have for a team in a tournament of this magnitude. Wilson Palacios, the former Tottenham midfielder is still the Honduran’s best (and best known) talent. Normally utilized as a defensive midfielder, coach Luiz Fernando Suarez will look to Palacios to protect the back line. Honduras’ major weakness is their attack; their lack in goal-scoring prowess could mean that they end the group stage without a win and fail to qualify for the next round.
Switzerland: Coming off one of the more convincing qualifying campaigns, Switzerland looks set to make a potential major statement in this summer’s tournament. Head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has a great young squad, not unlike Belgium. The Swiss are looking to establish themselves among the world’s elite. With the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri among the talents in Switzerland’s attacking midfield, look for the Swiss to create plenty of goal-scoring opportunities. Creating chances, however, is not the same as taking them, and what the Swiss truly need is a proven finisher. That their top scorer during the qualifying campaign was center-back Fabian Schar truly speaks for their need for a clinical front man. If the Swiss can take their chances in front of goal and continue their impressive defensive form, they stand a decent chance of challenging Ecuador for the second qualifying spot along with France.