Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

What if we were Coach? - Group E

In today’s installment of “What if we were Coach?”, Young and Drew tackle Group E.  Despite France going through somewhat of a recent renaissance that began with their second-leg come back against the Ukraine, they are by no means easy favorites to win the group.  Switzerland are rather talented, Ecuador have many unknown but gifted players and the South American climate on their side, while Honduras channel their energy and passion for the game into spirited performances.  How would our editors coach them? Let’s find out.


Group E:  France, Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras


Young leads off today;

France – Ever since France miraculously qualified for the World Cup, coming back against Ukraine in the play-off with a 3-0 victory after being down 2-0 in aggregate, they’ve been riding on cloud nine by following up with a 2-0 win against Netherlands in a friendly. It seems as if France is rediscovering their oxymoron combination of flair and grit in their football. Although their backline aren’t world beaters, the French midfielders and forwards might be one of the most dangerous in the world. If the French want to play with that flair that defined them in the past, 4-3-3 will be the way to go:

GK: Hugo Lloris

DF: Bacary Sagna (RB), Raphael Verane (CB), Laurent Koscielny (CB), Patrice Evra’s zombie (LB)

MF: Yohan Cabaye (CDM), Paul Pogba (CM), Blaise Matuidi (CM)

FW: Franck Ribery (LW), Karim Benzema (CF), Mathieu Valbuena (RW)


Switzerland – Switzerland was never a world beater, but every European team knew better than to take them lightly for they were capable of putting up a good fight any day. This year’s Switzerland team might be one of the strongest teams in the tournament due to their team chemistry. Most of the players in their squad have played with one another at the 2002 U-17 European Cup or the 2009 U-17 World Cup, giving Switzerland an underrated cohesive unit. Switzerland’s strength lies in their midfield, boasting three players who hail from S.S.C Napoli in the middle along with a wily veteran and a speedy youngster manning the wings. Unfortunately, Switzerland lacks a quality forward as their best option is Josip Drmic; a 21-year-old who is moving to Bayer Leverkeusen this season who possesses fancy footwork but lacks pace and balance. 4-2-3-1 will be the way to go for this Swiss squad.

GK: Diego Benaglio

DF: Ricardo Rodriguez (LB), Fabian Schar (CB), Johan Djourou (CB), Stephan Lichsteiner (RB)

MF: Valon Behrami (CDM), Gokhan Inler (CM), Blerim Dzemali (CAM), Xherdan Shaqiri (RAM), Tranquilo Barnette (LAM)

FW: Josip Drmic


Ecuador – Aside from Antonio Valencia, most casual football fans can’t name a single player on the Ecuador national team. Although most of their players don’t play for a big name European club, Ecuador is a talented team. This is a team that boasts about their stamina and physical style of play; the kind of team that is hard to beat, especially in the Brazilian climate. Usually sluggish when playing outside their continent, this year’s edition of the World Cup shouldn’t be a problem for this relatively unknown side. Just be mindful of one thing. That guy with the dreads who plays forward is lively as he looks. The classic 4-4-2 is just how I would coach this team.

GK: Maximo Banguera

DF: Oscar Bagui (LB), Jorge Guagua (CB), Gabriel Achieller (CB), Juan Carlos Paredes (RB)

MF: Renato Ibarra (LAM), Segundo Castillo (CDM), Christian Noboa (CM), Antonio Valencia (RAM)

FW: Jefferson Montero (SS), Felipe Caicedo (ST)


Honduras – Los Catrachos qualified for the World Cup thanks to Mexico’s borderline collapse in the qualifying rounds and some timely goals from Carlos Costly. Although they are the weakest team in the bunch, they have one positive hope to hold onto. They tied with Switzerland in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup and tied with Ecuador 2-2 in a friendly last month. With fast legs at the wings, the best hope Honduras has to make it out of the group is to park the bus and utilize their speedy wingers to get the ball to Carlos Costly. 4-5-1 is the way to go.

GK: Donis Escober

DF: Emilio Izaguirre (LB), Victor Bernandez (CB), Maynor Figueroa (CB), Juan Carlos Garcia (RB)

MF: Luis Garrido (CDM) Wilson Palacios (CM), Roger Espinosa (CM), Marvin Chavez (LAM), Andy Najar (RAM)

FW: Carlos Costly


And now it’s Drew’s turn;

France – They just cannot avoid negative media attention, can they?  In 2010 it was the coup and this summer it has been the omission and aftermath of Samir Nasri from the squad.  Despite it all however, France are in the midst of a rebirth of sorts that all began in World Cup qualifying with their comeback against the Ukraine having lost the first leg 2-0.  France have talent in every are of their squad this summer, and easily one of the most complete sides of the whole tournament.  The only weakness France truly has is the relative inexperience of their center-back options.  Despite all of them plying their trade at top clubs in Europe, they only have a combined 38 international caps between the four of them.  And while playing for the likes of Real Madrid, Arsenal and FC Porto is impressive, it is not being at the heart of a back-line in a World Cup – if there are any players dealing with the brunt of the pressure, it is them.  But it may not be the problem that I am highlighting, France have a ridiculously talented midfield trio that will be incredibly tough to break down, and unless they are not on their game, the inexperience of the back-line may not even be ruthlessly exposed as feared.  If I were coach, like Young, I would opt for a 4-3-3:

GK: Hugo Lloris

DF: Patrice Evra (LB), Raphael Varane (CB), Laurent Koscielny (CB), Bacary Sagna (RB)

MF: Blaise Matuidi (DM), Yohan Cabaye (CM), Paul Pogba (CM)

FW: Antoine Griezmann (LW), Karim Benzema (CF), Franck Ribery (RW)


Switzerland – Young and I agree about the Swiss; they are quietly very dangerous and even more so underrated.  So many could not understand how they found their way into a number one seed slot for the group stage drawing.  While I may agree that they may not be worthy of that standing, you cannot take away the skill and cohesion that this side brings to the table.  It must be key to note that the Swiss have plenty of players who have played together through the youth ranks at national level, and many of them come from the same domestic clubs before making the move to greener pastures.  But above all else, much in the same vein as the French, the key to this Swiss team is their midfield.  Never mind the talented options at their disposal, it is the likely starting central trio that all play their club football together at S.S.C Napoli that makes this Swiss team dangerous.  Beyond that, they have technically gifted wide players who love to roam, and a central striker in young Josip Drmic, who I feel Young understated a little bit.  In the span of a year, Drmic has gone from FC Zurich, to having a fantastic debut season in the Bundesliga with FC Nurnberg where he netted 17 times in 34 domestic appearances (all while they were busy being relegated by the way) – such was his success that he has completed a transfer to Bayer Leverkusen.  The kid has bags of talent, excellent awareness in the final third and just like the Swiss wide players, he loves to roam.  With a midfield anchor and launch pad that are constantly on the same page and attacking players who will make themselves hard to mark for 90 minutes, the Swiss could surprisingly have a shot at actually winning this group.  As coach, a 4-3-3 would also be preferred to accentuate the midfield cohesion:

GK:  Yann Sommer

DF: Ricardo Rodriguez (LB), Fabian Schar (CB), Johan Djourou (CB), Stephan Lichtsteiner (RB)

MF: Blerim Dzemaili (DM), Valon Behrami (CM), Gokhan Inler (CM)

FW: Tranquillo Barnetta (LW), Josip Drmic (CF), Xherdan Shaqiri (RW)


Ecuador – Ecuador began their World Cup preparations yesterday with a spirited 1-1 draw in Amsterdam against the Netherlands, one of the tournament heavy weights.  Many European players have already mentioned that South American teams will have an advantage this summer given their familiarity with climate conditions and well as how to prepare for them – Ecuador will be no different in this regard.  Despite their lack of European based players, they can call upon their close knit group of players, especially a large portion of their back-line plying their trade at Emelec.  In addition to the aforementioned, they have tons of energy and pace throughout their squad and their ability to hit someone on the counter-attack via Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia and Morelia’s Jefferson Montero will be key against France, given the penchant to getting forward that Sagna and Evra maintain.  Ecuador, like the Swiss, have a chance of getting out of this group, and while it is unlikely the French will implode like in 2010, Ecuador do not have the weight of expectations on their shoulders and often times, that is more than enough.  As per their result against the Dutch yesterday, as coach I would stick with the 4-4-2 they used, with the two wide players being pushed further up in their deployment:

GK: Maximo Banguera

DF: Oscar Bagui (LB), Jorge Guagua (CB), Frickson Erazo (CB), Juan Carlos Pareds (RB)

MF: Segundo Castillo (CM), Christian Noboa (CM); Jefferson Montero (LM), Antonio Valencia (RM)

FW: Felipe Caicedo (ST), Joao Rojas (SS)


Honduras – Much like the Australians, it is hard to see Honduras making any waves at all in this group.  Completely outclassed in all departments around the pitch, Honduras are pretty much here for the ride and the excitement.  However, one key additive in their dossier is that they do have history against Switzerland by way of their 0-0 draw in the 2010 World Cup.  They also can boast six UK-based players (four in England, two in Scotland) at their disposal, and they are a national team that has been together for years, with eight players who have 50 or more caps to their credit.  And as the same goes for Ecuador, their adaptiveness and previous exposure to climates of the region mean that their energy will come into play against the two group favorites in France and Switzerland.  While I cannot see Honduras winning any of their matches, I can certainly see one or two draws in the results that could well throw a monkey wrench in the group.  As coach, I would deploy in a 4-1-4-1, park every bus that exists in Tegucigalpa and look to take their chances well on the quick counter via the highly touted Andy Najar:

GK: Noel Valladares

DF: Emilio Izaguirre (LB), Maynor Figueroa (CB), Victor Bernardez (CB), Juan Carlos Garcia (RB)

MF: Wilson Palacios (DM); Marvin Chavez (LM), Arnold Peralta (CM), Roger Espinoza (CM), Andy Najar (RM)

FW: Carlos Costly

Tags: 2014 World Cup Ecuador France Honduras Soccer Switzerland

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