2014 World Cup Group E Picks and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 2/6/2014
Not all groups are created equally at the World Cup, and this one stands as proof. There are a couple of decent teams here, but as a whole this is far from the most inspiring group. France has obviously had a lot of success on this stage in the past but are more than a step from their best and only narrowly qualified for the field. Switzerland has promise, but we don’t really know how good they are because their qualifying group — Iceland, Slovenia, and Norway — was so bad it was laughable. Ecuador looked very good early in the qualification process and deserves credit for getting through a very tough region, but lately they have absolutely forgotten how to play and couldn’t be in worse form. Honduras is only here because Mexico was such a mess in CONCACAF qualifying. They are not an elite team.
Group E at a glance
Best team: France. As you will see in a while, I am not at all certain that France is going to win the group, but there is little denying that on paper they are the best team. They have a lot of talent, though they need the next generation of stars to step forward.
Worst team: Honduras. They are no better than the fourth-best team in CONCACAF behind the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, and I have very little respect for that group of teams this time around. Just not good enough.
Best game: France vs. Switzerland. It would be a surprise if this game wasn’t a showdown for first place in this group. They both play a fairly similar attacking style relying on a lot of athleticism, so they should provide a very entertaining match. Barring a surprise, both teams will be unbeaten heading into this one and should be heading to another win in their third games, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for this one. It will also be a very good test of whether both of these teams, which are very likely to advance, will be a legitimate threat in later rounds.
Predicted order of finish: I like Switzerland more than I like France — which isn’t saying that much — and expect a mild upset as they win the group. France will finish second. Ecuador is better than Honduras, so if they can shake their slump in time they should finish third — for all that that matters.
Team-by-team Breakdown (odds to win Group and tournament from Sportsbook.ag)
Ecuador (+400 to win the Group, +12000 to win the tournament): Ecuador suffered a crushing loss in tragic style last July. Striker Christian Benitez, a 27 year old who was the centerpiece of this team, died suddenly of cardiac arrest soon after joining a new club in Qatar. His funeral was a major event in Ecuador, and the team has not healed from the emotional scars of the loss. If they could then it could be a major motivating factor, but it’s not yet clear that that will happen. Replacing him has been tough — he had 24 goals in 58 international appearances and was as effective at setting up goals as scoring them — and it is a real setback for a team that was already struggling with their form. Without Benites, and with the burden of his death hanging over them it’s hard to be optimistic about this team.
France (-145, +2200): France is lucky to be here. They finished second in their group to Spain and then lost the first game of their two-game total points playoff to Ukraine 2-0. Only a 3-0 miracle win in the second game saved them. They should be better than they have been, but they can’t seem to find a lineup that maximizes their talent, and their defense is often ugly. If they can get things working they could last deep in the tournament. Their disastrous appearances in the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro, though, show that it is far from certain that we will see their best.
Honduras (+2000, +100000): As you can tell by now, I just don’t like this team very much. They have a few decent players — I quite like Wilson Palacios — but they would need all of their players to play at their best at the same time to be a real threat. They did beat a struggling Mexico team, and they could be dangerous if either of the top teams are out of form, but if the rest of the squads are playing well then this team just doesn’t have the tools it needs.
Switzerland (+280, +10000): This team has absolutely stellar goalkeeping — some of the best in the tournament. That will be a huge factor here. They also have a midfield, led by captain Gokhan Inler, that would be the envy of any country. The rest of the team isn’t at the same level, but they play with intense effort and discipline. They are the kind of team that can frustrate opponents, and I like their chances here.
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