World Cup 2014 Preview: Group E

Group E consists of four teams that have a lot of strengths but also have weak sides that are very noticeable. But even though Group E isn’t a ‘Group Of Death,’ don’t count them out completely. Here’s my rundown of the Group E teams:

Switzerland-Switzerland (8)- It’s a surprise to see Switzerland among the seeded teams during FIFA’s World Cup draw back in December. Sure Switzerland was in FIFA’s Top 8 but traditionally Switzerland was never a football powerhouse. Switzerland has been to the World Cup nine times and have gone past the First Round five of those times. However they’ve never gone any further, not even when they hosted back in 1954. Nevertheless Switzerland has been playing very impressively lately. They especially did well in World Cup qualifying, taking their qualifying group in seven wins and three draws. Of the eighteen games they’ve played in the last year, they only lost one game and that was to South Korea. They’ve also proven themselves further by winning against Brazil in a game and tying Croatia. Chances are Brazil could be the stage for Switzerland’s best World Cup performance ever.

Ecuador-Ecuador (28)- Ecuador isn’t one of the more celebrated South American countries in football but it does have the ability to surprise many. Ecuador was able to finish second in the Group Stage back in 2006 and advance to the Round of 16 for the first time ever in only their second World Cup. Ecuador however has struggled at the Copa America and has not gone past Round 1 ever in this century. Ecuador did however have a setback last year when one of their best players Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez died of a heart attack last year at 27. It was a struggle for the team as they saw him not only as a key player but as a friend. Ecuador did qualify for the World Cup finishing fourth in the South American qualifying pool. Ecuador’s play records include recent wins against Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and a tie against the Netherlands. This World Cup will define Ecuador even further.

France fixed-France (16)- If anyone were to answer who the seeded team of this group was in the draw, I’m sure they’d most likely pick France. With good reason: winners in 1998 and finalists in 2006. However France has a reputation of being an ‘all or nothing’ team as of late. In fact if you remember the 2010 World Cup, you may remember France had a terribly disappointing time that even cause the president of the French Football Federation to resign even before their last game in Group Stage. Since then, France has worked on rebuilding itself. They’ve done better but it didn’t come without difficulties. France lost to eventual winners Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. That led to the new coach being fired after just two years and being replaced by Didier Deschamps, captain of the World Cup-winning 1998 squad. France has had an up-and-down time in terms of play. For World Cup qualifying, the team finished second to defending World Cup holders Spain in their group and were delegated to a repechage round in which they were paired up against Ukraine. They first thought it would be easy since Ukraine has never won against France in their seven matches. This would be a surprise to France as Ukraine won their first repechage match 2-0 and would be Ukraine’s first win over France. France knew they would have to give Ukraine a hell of a game in the second match to qualify and a hell of a game is what they delivered, winning 3-0 and qualifying. Recent friendly play has been less stressful on France as they’ve beaten Netherlands 2-0 and Norway 4-0. However they’ve also lost to Uruguay 1-0 and Brazil 3-0. The latter is odd because France has a reputation of being Brazil’s ‘achilles heel’ especially at the World Cup. Whatever the scenario, France will have to prove their comeback in Brazil whether they’re ready or not.

Honduras-Honduras (30)- Honduras should be seen as a ‘little giant’ in football. This is their third World Cup and second in a row. However even though they are a rising team that has included making the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals the past three times, they’re still looking for that breakthrough moment at the World Cup. Being in this group makes their chances look next to impossible but you shouldn’t immediately dismiss them or their talent. They have a reputable coach in Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez who coached Ecuador to a Round of 16 finish in 2006. Although most of the lineup including top scorer Carlo Costly play for Honduran teams, They have Emilio Izaguirre who plays for Chelsea and four players who play for MLS teams. They’ve also given Mexico and the U.S.A. defeats in recent play and even tied Ecuador 2-2. So don’t count Honduras out. They may have their best World Cup ever in Brazil.

Okay, my prediction for the two advancers: France and Switzerland. However a surprise from Ecuador is possible.

STADIUM SPOTLIGHT

I like reviewing stadiums but I admit it does get kind of tiring. Fortunately I only have one to review and it’s a good one.

-PORTO ALEGRE : Estadio Beira-RioBeira

Year Opened: 1969

World Cup Capacity: 48, 849

World Cup Groups Hosting: B, E, F, H

Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16 (G1 vs. H2)

This stadium has long been home to Porto Alegre’s team Sport Club Internacional. The stadium in recent years has undergone through restoration and developments for the World Cup. For one thing, the stadium received a metal  roof with appropriate drainage. Timeliness was a problem as the first FIFA test match had to be scrapped because of construction delays. Yes, even stadiums that already were in existence had problems with renovations. It was however ready for the second test event in February and should go off without a glitch during the World Cup.

And there you go. My take on Group E and another stadium. Hard to believe nine days to go. Hang tight.

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