France and Switzerland face each other in what should be a tightly contested match in Group E on Day 9 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Both sides were favoured to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Italy faces Costa Rica in Group D as they battle for top spot heading into the final round of games. Ecuador takes on Honduras in the other Group E contest of the day.
Here are three keys to the games.
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Italy must be wary of counter attacks
When Italy played England last Saturday, plenty of Azzurri supporters were calling for Parma centre-back Gabriel Paletta to be taken out of the game. Paletta was clearly struggling to cope with the English pace, and the Italians will face a similar issue versus Costa Rica.
In their win over Uruguay, the world witnessed that Los Ticos can hurt teams on the counter. However, Italy may be without Andrea Barzagli as he picked up a knee injury in training. That means that Leonardo Bonucci would slot into Barzagli’s position in the centre of defence.
Mattia De Sciglio’s potential return means that Giorgio Chiellini can start in his preferred left centre-back position. Bonucci has a tendency to dart forward with the ball and play long passes to his teammates, but in the three-man backline he’s used to at Juventus, it’s not much of a risk. With just two centre-halves, that could spell trouble.
That’s why Italy must be wary of Costa Rica’s speed. They ran Uruguay ragged in their opening game and they have the potential to do the same to the Italians.
Swiss attackers must be influential from start
Switzerland may have won their opening World Cup game, but had it not been for a late Haris Seferovic strike, they would’ve split the points with Ecuador. Had the Swiss attackers been more proactive in the first half, it wouldn’t be a problem. If they do the same versus France, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men probably won’t get away with it again.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Valentin Stocker, and Josip Drmic tried to muster opportunities, but were often stymied by the Ecuadorian defence. As the Swiss became more frustrated, each attacker tried to create chances by themselves.
Considering how strong France’s defence and midfield is, that front four cannot under-deliver like they did against Ecuador. The French have a lot more strength in every position to make sure that the Swiss pay for those sorts of mistakes.
Ecuador must utilize quick movement and passing
Ecuador showed that they’re going to be difficult to handle in Group E. They were seconds away from drawing Switzerland, but they have an opportunity to get themselves back in contention for a spot in the last 16 versus Honduras.
The Ecuadorians can definitely put three goals past Los Catrachos, much like France did. Felipe Caicedo, Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia were troubling the Swiss all afternoon with their quick movements on counter attacks. Their passing into open space, followed by darting runs into the opposing penalty area, were very effective.
If they can replicate that performance against a weaker, more physical Honduras side, Ecuador should easily walk out of Curitibia with three points.