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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group E Picks (June 15-25)

The FIFA World Rankings have regularly been criticised, but never more so than when Switzerland were one of the top eight seeds in this tournament having not been past the Second Round of any major international competition since the 1954 World Cup which was held in their own country. They are joined by France, the 1998 Winners and 2006 Runners Up, as well as Ecuador and Honduras.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Sunday 15th June
Switzerland v Ecuador Pick: When it came to the World Cup 2014 draw last December, one of the bigger surprises was noticing that Switzerland were going to be one of the top seeds ahead of the likes of Italy and the Netherlands. It is a quirk of the FIFA World Rankings that Switzerland were able to get as high as they have despite failing to get out of the Group Stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and also failing to qualify for the European Championships 2012.

However, Switzerland were dominant in their qualifying campaign and will very much be expected to qualify for the Second Round at the very least this time, while the future of the national team is exciting with young talent breaking through.

Their first game in Group E could be crucial to Switzerland's chances though as Ecuador are the most likely challengers for a top two berth assuming, and it is a big assumption at times, that France don't self-implode in the manner of 2002 and 2010.

The real issue that many have pointed out about Ecuador is their lack of success outside of Quito and that could be costly for them in this Group, even if their players are a little more accustomed to some of the conditions they will be facing.

So far, the World Cup has been producing a lot of goals, but this could be the second game that fails to reach those heights in my opinion. The layers seem to be in agreement with me in that regards with the Under 2.5 Goals set as low as 1.57 in some places, and even picking a winner doesn't look clear cut.

I am expecting a decent showing from the Swiss though and I do have concerns for Ecuador as a team outside of the comforts provided by the altitude of Quito. However, the value may be in backing Switzerland to win to nil at a big price considering they conceded just one goal in three Group games in South Africa and a strong defence has been the foundation of their success over the last few years.

France v Honduras Pick: After seeing the way Costa Rica dismantled Uruguay in their opening game at the World Cup, I definitely have a different level of respect for the teams coming out of the CONCACAF qualifying section other than the United States and Mexico.

However, I still believe that Honduras could be one of the weaker teams at the World Cup and anything other than getting beaten in all three games would be a decent return from a limited side.

They might have half a chance of springing a surprise or two if their opponents are not up to scratch and that is where France are a little difficult to judge.

It has been feast or famine for France in the last four World Cups- they have reached the Final twice, winning once, but also been beaten in the Group Stage twice so some fans may get very excited if they come out of this section. That has to be expected with Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador making up the numbers, but losing Franck Ribery and leaving Samir Nasri at home has taken away some of the creativity that may have been expected.

The likes of Paul Pogba could thrive in their absence though with the former Manchester United player ready to show off his talents on the world stage. And if some of the friendly results since qualification are to go by, France should certainly be getting off to a very positive start in their opening game in Brazil.

France have beaten the Netherlands and crushed the likes of Jamaica and Norway and there does seem to be a settled squad travelling to Brazil under Didier Deschamps. This game should give France the right opportunity to play themselves into the tournament and I can't see anything but the side being too strong for Honduras.

Take away the draw with England in the friendlies, Honduras took heavy losses to Brazil, Turkey and Israel and I would expect France to be able to win this game by a couple of goals at least.

Switzerland won a dramatic game against Ecuador when it looked like the South American's were going to create a chance to win the game- thirty seconds later and the Swiss had scored the winning goal with virtually the last kick of the game and now are in a strong position to finish in one of the top two spots in the Group.

They were in the same boat four years ago after beating Spain, but Switzerland somehow managed to mess up qualification after drawing with Honduras in their final game and might be a little tense knowing that is their final game again.

However, Honduras looked remarkably average in their 3-0 loss to France and the latter showed the togetherness that hasn't always been a feature of their team.

Switzerland v France Pick: With three points each in the bag, there is every chance that France and Switzerland would both settle for a draw at this moment in time and take their chances in their final round of games. Each would have likely considered the other as the most dangerous team in the Group, although the onus is perhaps more on France who would like to finish top of the Group and avoid having to play Argentina in the next Round.

That is assuming Switzerland would at least beat Honduras which would leave France in a position of having to beat Ecuador and hope goal difference is in their favour, but you would think that both managers would accept that fate right now.

Qualification from the Group is the priority and I do believe this will be a tense encounter where neither team will want to give too much away- however, this World Cup has seen some strange displays from teams regardless of their situations as highlighted by the attacking Ivory Coast-Colombia game compared with the dire Greece-Japan game despite the two teams in the latter being more 'desperate' to win.

The draw is the a real player in the game where neither side will want to jeopardise their place in the Second Round, but I will simply take there being fewer than three goals in the game.

Honduras v Ecuador Pick: If the earlier game in Group E is a draw, that will mean the loser in this game is out of the competition although I don't think it would change the approach that Honduras are likely to have in the game.

There isn't a lot of quality going forward for Honduras, but they showed against France that they are able to disrupt the game and get plenty of bodies in and around the box to make it difficult for teams to break them down. France obviously had the added guile to do that, but I am not convinced that Ecuador can say the same about their team.

Set pieces may be the best avenue for both of these teams to try and score the goals to win the game, but I am not really holding out too much hope for an entertaining game in another of the late evening kick offs in Britain.

The teams did play out a 2-2 draw back in November before the draw was made for the World Cup, but there is a lot more at stake this time. The two options that have appealed to me the most is for another game going under 2.5 goals or Honduras with a 0.75 start on the Asian Handicap- my feeling is that one goal could potentially win this game so the low scoring option is my call.

The World Cup may only be a little under two weeks old and there is plenty of football to go before the winner is decided, but I have been the most impressed with France who tore Switzerland apart in their most recent game.

That result almost certainly means France will top Group E and will be assured of missing Argentina in the Second Round, albeit on the assumption that Argentina are not beaten by Nigeria by a couple of goals or in a high-scoring game earlier on Wednesday when final Group games are to be played.

Who follows France into the Second Round? Ecuador must be kicking themselves that they conceded such a late winner against Switzerland in their opening game, but the come from behind win over Honduras gives them a great chance as long as they can beat France in their final game.

Any other result means Switzerland will have the edge on second spot as long as they can beat Honduras, although they won't need reminding that a goalless draw with the same nation knocked them out in South Africa four years ago.

Ecuador v France Pick: With France almost certainly assured of finishing top of Group E and avoiding Argentina in the Second Round, there is every chance that they will rotate players in preparation for the next Stage of the World Cup.

France have been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament to this point and look like they have everything required to win the World Cup. Their opponents haven't been the best, but France have dismissed them with confidence and the stunning win over Switzerland demands respect.

They face an Ecuador team that knows what they have to do- either match the Switzerland scoreline, or avoid a heavy loss in the case of a Honduras win in the other game in the Group. That puts them in a tough spot because Ecuador haven't looked secure at the back, but have produced some decent attacking displays.

The problem for them is attacking this France team leaves gaps that they have exploited perfectly in the first two games and the pace the French have in forward areas could punish Ecuador. If France were to play a full team, or something close to that, they could certainly win this third game in the Group by countering an Ecuador team that may push forward, but those doubts about the line up are nagging.

It's a tough game to predict because of the permutations for Ecuador that depend on what is happening in the other game- the layers are taking no chances with this French team who look short and even backing goals doesn't look that profitable considering the situation for both teams.

An early goal would change all that in a Group that has produced plenty of goals but the best option for the game may be France to cover the Asian Handicap if Ecuador are pushing late in the game to get back into/or win the match.

Honduras v Switzerland Pick: Four years ago, these two teams met in South Africa in a very similar situation- on that occasion Honduras were out, but Switzerland needed to beat them in their final Group game to move into the Second Round. Despite a host of shots on goal, Switzerland could only manage a goalless draw in that game and exited the World Cup.

They have a little more room in this one as long as Ecuador don't earn a result against France which would give Switzerland a place in the Second Round with a point, but a defeat also means Switzerland are likely to be heading out.

It makes this a difficult prospect for the Swiss who were blitzed by France in their last game, especially as Honduras still have a chance of moving through with a win and an Ecuador loss. Goal difference looks against Honduras but you never know and they won't want to exit another World Cup just yet.

The edge in quality certainly belongs to Switzerland and an early goal may give them the foundations for a big win, but I can see them being a little more cautious to not fall into a hole as they have in their last two games. Switzerland came back to beat Ecuador, but were hammered by France, and they may just want to settle into this game.

Honduras can make life difficult for them too as they did for France with some of their heavy tackles and physical game able to put the Swiss off their stride. Patience may be the key for the European team who had big expectations heading into the World Cup, so taking a small interest on a draw at half time before the eventual Switzerland win may be the best call for the game.

GROUP E PICKS: Switzerland Win to Nil @ 4.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit) versus Ecuador
France - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Honduras
Switzerland-France Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Honduras-Ecuador Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
France - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (2 Units) versus Ecuador
Draw-Switzerland @ 4.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit) versus Honduras

Group E Update: 1-3, - 3.16 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.14% Yield)

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