Football: United French on a roll

France's Moussa Sissoko celebrates after scoring his side's final goal in their 5-2 win against Switzerland. Photo / AP
France's Moussa Sissoko celebrates after scoring his side's final goal in their 5-2 win against Switzerland. Photo / AP

Four years to the day since their infamous player mutiny at the last World Cup, France look poised to make a more positive impact on this tournament as they swept aside Switzerland 5-2 in stunning fashion yesterday.

At the same venue where the Netherlands and Germany had flattened Spain and Portugal, France put five goals past their alpine neighbours to take a firm hold on top spot in Group E.

It was in 2010 that Patrice Evra and Co did not so much park the bus as sit in it, draw the curtains and refuse to train. Yesterday, by contrast, France could barely have done more damage to the Swiss had they driven that bus across the Arena Fonte Nova pitch.

Switzerland's highly-regarded young team could not live with the pace and power of a France side who led 3-0 at halftime through goals from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema added the fourth - his third of the tournament already - and Moussa Sissoko the fifth before the Swiss restored a shred of credibility, Blerim Dzemaili scoring with a free kick and Granit Xhaka with a late volley.

Still, this was a France performance that made you wonder how far they might go, given the only other time France have won their opening two games at a World Cup was in 1998 when they were tournament winners.

It also made you wonder whether World Cup footballers are a bunch of nature-loving tree-huggers at heart. There is a scheme in this north-eastern corner of Brazil to plant 1111 trees for every goal scored at the Fonte Nova and there have now been 17 in three games.

Arsenal striker Giroud was dominant and took advantage of a Swiss defence that resembled Emmental cheese, given the holes France found.

They lost Steve von Bergen early when the centre back received a kick to the head and the pairing of his replacement, Philippe Senderos, and Johan Djourou struggled.

"I think everyone could see we're going through an exceptional adventure," Giroud said. "I think people can see that on the pitch, we're getting a lot of pleasure.

"We're pleased, even though we conceded those two goals at the end which put a bit of a dampener on things. It was still a beautiful victory."

France had sat back more in the second period, yet still ended up with five goals. There might have been more, too, given the chances they created. Benzema missed a first-half penalty and put the ball in the net just a couple of seconds after the referee had blown for fulltime.

The Swiss, who have not beaten France since 1992, beat Ecuador 2-1 in their opener and play Honduras in their final group game.

Dejected coach Ottmar Hitzfeld believes France are rapidly emerging as contenders for the title.

"We were aware that we needed to take the game to them, but if you are chasing things, France have excellent individual players," he said. "They are one of the teams who can go very far in this tournament. They are superior to the likes of England or Italy."

France will take on Ecuador in their final pool game before a probable meeting with the second-placed team from group F.

Les Bleus mean business.

- The Independent/AFP

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