11:21 03 June 2014
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France must have Lady Luck on the bench – they squeezed past Ukraine in the play-offs and then got themselves into one of the easier groups.
But they will know from previous experience that they should take no one lightly: four years ago they crashed out when most observers expected an awful lot more and they haven’t quite recovered their composure.
Switzerland have good memories of their last World Cup when they beat eventual winners Spain, but they do generally struggle to rise above the mediocre. Ecuador had an interesting passage in qualifying, given that they failed to win a single game away from home.
Honduras’ fate is likely to be determined to a large extent by their second group game, against Ecuador in Curitiba.
The group should be between the Europeans, but it is much of a muchness.
Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Star player: Granit Xhaka
Previous record: Quarter-finals
Summary: Reached the quarter-finals nine times – but not since the 1954 finals on home soil. Always a degree of difficulty when facing the Swiss, but when they do get up a head of steam it soon disappears.
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Star player: Paul Pogba
Previous record: Winners 1998
Summary: A squad littered with stars, but had a difficult qualifying campaign in which they had to beat Ukraine in a play-off. Won’t want a repeat of the internal wranglings in South Africa four years ago.
Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
Star player: Antonio Valencia
Previous record: Round of 16
Summary: Were strong at home in qualifying but poor away, which makes you wonder how the relatively short hop to Brazil will affect them. Got some decent players and might be worth a bet to get out of the group.
Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez
Star player: Emilio Izaguirre
Previous record: Group stages
Summary: Left back Emilio Izaguirre was Celtic’s and Scotland’s best player last season – interested Norwich City at one time. Suarez has tried to work from the grassroots up: sounds like he’s still building.