France vs. Switzerland, 2014 World Cup preview: 2 powerful midfields collide

France could suddenly find themselves cast as potential Champions given the topsy-turvy nature of events at this World Cup, and they have their first real test here against Switzerland.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

France 5, Switzerland 2: Les Bleus crush sorry Swiss

Since 1998, France have only had two kinds of World Cups. They either make the final or go out in the Group Stage. They look very unlikely to be crashing out at the first hurdle this time round, but are they really good enough to be making the final? A relatively straightforward group should aid them in the early stages, but they face an early test here against Switzerland, who are blessed with a fine squad but were slightly underwhelming in requiring a last-minute goal to get past Ecuador.

Team news

Neither France nor Switzerland have any new injury problems ahead of the game, and there aren't many problems with form either, so it's likely that both will start with the exact same lineups that saw them to victory in their opening fixtures.

The questions for France prior to their win against Honduras were mostly about the composition of the defence, and with Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho chosen as the centre-back pairing, with Patrice Evra and Mathieu Debuchy on the flanks, Didier Deschamps will probably go with the same set-up again.

For Switzerland, meanwhile, there may be calls for Haris Seferovic to start ahead of Josip Drmic in the second game. Drmic is the usual starter for the side, but after he drew blanks in the game against Ecuador and was replaced by Seferovic, who scored a 93rd minute winner, he may find his position under scrutiny.

Projected lineups (left to right)

France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris; Patrice Evra, Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane, Mathieu Debuchy; Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena.

Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Diego Benaglio; Ricardo Rodriguez, Steve Von Bergen, Johan Djourou, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Gökhan Inler, Valon Behrami; Valentin Stocker, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri; Josip Drmic

football formations

Key matchups

Paul Pogba vs.Valon Behrami - France and Switzerland have very good midfields, but strange midfields. Going against the norm of specialist players, all three players in the position for both sides are all-action all-rounders, which could make it either an unpredictable or a very dull game. By far the best of all of these is Paul Pogba, and with Behrami the closest thing to a holding midfielder in there, he'll have to keep the Juventus man quiet to restrict France in attack.

Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Patrice Evra - Patrice Evra is still a very serviceable full-back, but he has been susceptible defensively for a while now, and Shaqiri certainly has the quality to punish him. Evra is experienced enough to be able to deal with his two-footedness, but his pace and trickery may well get the better of the Manchester United veteran, particularly with Griezmann not being the most effective at covering for his full-back.

Prediction

The first real test for France. Switzerland were slightly fortunate to get a win against Ecuador, even if they did show grit and determination in doing so. France's best asset - their ludicrously powerful midfield - could also be stymied by Switzerland possessing a poor man's version of the same thing. It will be hard, but France should get through this one and take charge of the group. 2-1 France.

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