World Cup preview: Group E rundown

Switzerland scores during an international friendly against Peru
Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring a goal during an international friendly soccer match against Peru.

A look at the teams competing in Group E at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:





FIFA world ranking: 26.

Last World Cup: 2006.

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2006).

How qualified: CONMEBOL round-robin, fourth place.


It’s a fact: Ecuador retired the No. 11 jersey of Christian “Chucho” Benitez and dedicated its World Cup effort to the charismatic striker, who died from cardiac arrest while playing for Qatari club El Jaish last summer.

The skinny: Ecuador has qualified for three of the last four World Cups, which led an excited Coach Reinaldo Rueda to say he wants to go to the final this summer. In that case he’d better buy a ticket because for all its accomplishments Ecuador is facing too many obstacles to success in Brazil. Benitez was its leading scorer, defender Jayro Campos is out with an injury and now midfielder Segundo Castillo appears to be out as well after injuring his right knee last Saturday in a loss to Mexico. That leaves Ecuador depending largely on Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia.


FIFA world ranking: 17.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Champion (1998).

How qualified: Beat Ukraine in UEFA playoff.

It’s a fact: France’s Lucien Laurent scored the first goal in World Cup history 19 minutes into a 4-1 win over Mexico in the 1930 tournament’s opening game in Uruguay.


The skinny: If the French can’t reach the semifinals, they’d rather not hang around. At least that’s been their World Cup history: five times they’ve made the Final Four, but on the other 11 occasions since World War II they’ve gone out in the group stage or failed to qualify for the tournament. C’est la vie. This could be the year that pattern ends, though. Because while the team should cruise through group play even without midfielder Franck Ribery, who will miss the tournament because of a bad back, France isn’t likely to go much further.


FIFA world ranking: 33.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Group stage.

How qualified: CONCACAF, third place.

It’s a fact: Honduras’ biggest international win came in the 2001 Copa America. Added to the field hours before the first game, it went on to beat Brazil, 2-0, knocking the South Americans out of the tournament.

The skinny: Honduras doesn’t defend well, has little creativity in midfield and is without a talented striker up front. Plus four years ago, in its second World Cup ever, Honduras didn’t score a goal. On the bright side it lost one game 1-0, played Spain tough in a loss and tied Switzerland. So yeah, it has a chance –- a very slim one provided keeper Noel Valladares plays the games of his life at 37, New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengston and former Houston Dynamo forward Carlo Costly can score and Honduras wins every 50-50 ball.



FIFA World ranking: 6.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Quarterfinals (1934, ’38, ’54).

How qualified: UEFA Group E winner.

It’s a fact: Eight years ago Switzerland became the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a goal, posting four straight shutouts but going out in the round of 16 anyway when it lost to Ukraine on penalty kicks.

The skinny: A weak group should help Switzerland reach knockout play but this team, the fruit of Switzerland’s well-developed youth program, should really be looking toward 2018. With Nuremberg’s Josip Drmic perhaps the best of four talented options at striker –- none older than 24 –- and a likely starting 11 that averages 25 years of age, this World Cup is little more than a dress rehearsal for a talented but young Swiss side that could be a major threat when the tournament moves to the more accommodating –- for the Swiss — climate of Russia four years from now.


June 15: Switzerland vs. Ecuador at Brasilia; France vs. Honduras at Porto Alegre.

June 20: Switzerland vs. France at Salvador; Honduras vs. Ecuador at Curitiba.

June 25: Honduras vs. Switzerland at Manaus; Ecuador vs. France at Rio de Janeiro.