As is usually the case, the draw for the 2014 World Cup produced some groups that were tougher than others. Fortunately for 1998 winners France, they’ve been handed one of the easier draws (on paper at any rate) as far as the major nations are concerned and they’ll compete in Group E alongside Honduras, Ecuador and Switzerland. While France have a track record of failing to live up to expectations in recent years, see the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, they’ll be expected to progress to the last 16 with relative ease in Brazil while the other three countries battle it out to take second place.
Best Finish – Quarter Finals (1934, 1938, 1954)
Odds – 100/1
The Swiss enter the 2014 World Cup with hopes of making it out of Group E, a realistic aim owing to both the relatively poor quality of teams in the group and the ability of a few individuals within their own squad. A shock 1-0 win against eventual winners Spain was the high point of their campaign in 2010, thereafter they failed to win a match and wouldn’t qualify for the last 16. They were in the same group as Honduras four years ago and their failure to beat to Central American side was a deciding factor in their inability to make the knockout stages, so Switzerland will no doubt be on the lookout for revenge in Brazil. Promising Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri should be the focal point of the Swiss attack, but he’ll be ably supported by veterans Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler in midfield.
Best Finish – Last 16 (2006)
Odds – 150/1
In Brazil an Antonio Valencia led Ecuador side will attempt to equal their best performance at a World Cup, which came in 2006 when a David Beckham free-kick eliminated them in the second round in Germany. However the Manchester United midfielder aside Ecuador lack pedigree and recognisable talent, though some Manchester City fans will recall striker Felipe Caicedo’s name from his stint with the citizens. Their familiarity with South American conditions will help them, but it would nonetheless be a fantastic effort from Ecuador if they’re able to make it out of the group. Stranger things may have happened and it could come down to a straight shootout between them and Switzerland – nonetheless a last 16 place would appear to be the Ecuadorians ceiling this summer.
Best Finish – Winners (1998)
Odds – 150/1
Can France make it out of the group stages in Brazil, as they failed to do in South Africa four years ago? That time around Les Bleus infamously imploded from within, with captain Patrice Evra leading a players revolt following the dismissal of Nicolas Anelka by team management. With 1998 hero Didier Deschamps now in charge it’s hoped the playing squad will be able to concentrate their efforts on performing on the pitch and make a comfortable progression to the last 16. However with Bayern Munich star Frank Ribery out of the tournament through injury Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba will be asked to star in his first appearance on the World Cup stage, something the former Manchester United man is more than capable of judging by his displays in Serie A last season. France may have had a far from ideal build up to the competition but make no mistake about it – if Deschamps can get the squad singing from the same hymn sheet then Les Blues could be the dark horses of Brazil 2014.
Best Finish – Group Stages (1982, 2010)
Odds – 2500/1
One of the true outsiders heading to Brazil, Honduras have little to no chance of qualifying even from the relatively ‘easy’ Group E. Their 0-0 draw against England in a pre-tournament friendly demonstrated the Hondurans defensive resilience but their inability to trouble the back of the net is well documented and it’s difficult seeing them scoring enough goals to threaten Switzerland or Ecuador as they compete to make it through to the last 16 later this month. Wilson Palacios, of Tottenham, Stoke and Wigan fame is the lynchpin of the Honduras side and he’s joined by his brothers Jerry and Johnny in the squad. Palacios is a steely midfielder who offers sterling protection to the back four, something they’ll need particularly in the showdown with France in Honduras’s opening game on June 15.
Switzerland v Ecuador – 15th June, Brasilia (17.00 GMT)
France v Honduras – 15th June, Porto Alegre (20.00 GMT)
Switzerland v France – 20th June, Salvador (20.00 GMT)
Honduras v Ecuador – 20th June, Curitiba (23.00 GMT)
Honduras v Switzerland – 25th June, Manaus (21.00 GMT)
Ecuador v France – 25th June, Rio De Janeiro (21.00 GMT)
Who do you think will qualify from Group E in Brazil? Will France challenge for the World Cup crown? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley