Salvador (Brazil) : France are on the brink of reaching the World Cup last 16 after their emphatic 5-2 win over Switzerland kept them in control of Group E.
The French backed up their opening 3-0 win over Honduras by racing into a 2-0 lead as Olivier Giroud’s 16th-minute header was followed by Blaise Matuidi’s goal just 66 seconds later.
Diminutive right-winger Mathieu Valbuena put the result beyond doubt with France’s third just before the break. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema missed a first-half penalty, but then netted their fourth before Newcastle United’s midfielder Moussa Sissoko also claimed a second-half goal.
Only the heroics of Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio prevented more French goals before Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka scored late consolation goals. The Swiss, who have not beaten France since 1992, may now need to beat Honduras next Wednesday to qualify for the last 16. They beat Ecuador 2-1 in their opener.
On the anniversary of their infamous strike at South Africa 2010, France put themselves amongst the World Cup favourites.
In the last edition of the World Cup, France’s players refused to train following Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion from the squad for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech.
Salvador has now seen 17 goals in three World Cup matches — the most by far of Brazil’s 12 venues — after the Netherlands routed Spain 5-1 here and Germany hammered Portugal 4-0 last Monday.
Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was forced into an early change when centre-back Steven von Bergen had to leave the field with a heavy cut over his left eye, Philippe Senderos replacing him.
Giroud wasted little time in repaying Deschamps’ faith for the opening goal. It was France’s 100th goal at World Cup finals. The French doubled their lead 66 seconds later through Matuidi, who fired inside Benaglio’s near post.
Benzema to give away a penalty, but his spot-kick was blocked by Benaglio.
France’s third goal came from Valbuena after 40 minutes. Benzema made up for his first-half penalty miss midway through the second-half. He then turned provider by putting Sissoko with 17 minutes remaining for France’s fifth.
Dzemali finally got the hapless Swiss on the scoreboard with his freekick nine minutes from time before Xhaka drilled home.
Benzema put the ball in the net one more time but his “goal” came just a couple of seconds too late as the referee had already blown for full-time. —AFP