World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014

We're the true underdogs, say Swiss squad

Sixth-ranked team insist united French will be tough to beat when Alpine neighbours face-off

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 9:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 9:59pm

Switzerland are trying to pile the pressure on France by claiming the underdog tag for the Alpine neighbours' group E clash in Salvador.

Both teams won their openers, with France topping the table after a convincing 3-0 win over Honduras, while the Swiss secured a last-gasp victory over Ecuador.

Super-sub Haris Seferovic netted in the last minute of injury time to claim a 2-1 comeback victory after the Swiss had fallen behind to Enner Valencia's first-half header.

France have always had technical quality, they have simply returned to their normal level, which they never should have left
Michel Pont

Sixth-placed Switzerland are 11 places higher than the French, according to Fifa's rankings, but insist those standings mean nothing.

"Favourites? You like that word in France, eh?," Swiss central defender Steve von Bergen said. "It is France who are the favourites."

Swiss assistant coach Michel Pont, who celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday, said 1998 World Cup winners France had the upper hand.

Pont said France coach Didier Deschamps had united his squad after the debacle of their South Africa 2010 campaign, when the team went on strike in support of Nicolas Anelka after a row with then-coach Raymond Domenech.

"Us, favourites? Absolutely not," said Pont, who has worked under current coach Ottmar Hitzfeld since 2008, as well as his predecessor Jakub Kuhn from 2001-2008.

"Frankly, the French team impresses me, they have found harmony.

"France have always had technical quality, they have simply returned to their normal level, which they never should have left.

"It's extremely difficult to find their weak points; it is the first time I have experienced this in 13 years. We have to create their weak points, by improvising and taking each chance.

"We can't sit back and put 10 players behind the ball, we have to find ways against them."

Swiss defender Johan Djourou, who will mark France's Real Madrid striker Karim Benezema, a two-goal scorer against Honduras, said his side had nothing to fear.

"France are favourites, by the fame of their players, who play in the biggest clubs," said the 27-year-old ex-Arsenal defender, who is now at Hamburg.

"But on the day, this is the game that counts, not the name of the player or his club."

Deschamps has plenty of options up front, with Arsenal's Olivier Giroud - who spent most of the Honduras game on the bench as 22-year-old Antoine Griezmann shone - eager to start.

Midfielder Yohan Cabaye will not feature after he came off in the Honduras match with a hamstring injury.

The Swiss went through their paces in Porto Seguro with Seferovic insisting they have to make a strong start at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova.

"If we play on the same level as against Ecuador, it will not work," the 22-year-old insisted.

France only squeezed into the finals by narrowly defeating Ukraine in a play-off.

Now that they are here, former captain Patrice Evra insists they are not the faction-riddled outfit from 2010, but rather a united and cohesive unit.

"We play for the same country and since the play-off in November there has been real pride in wearing the shirt," said the Manchester United star.


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