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France avoid World Cup 'Group of Death'

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France avoid World Cup 'Group of Death'
France will face Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E, having avoided some of world football's biggest nations in Friday evening's World Cup draw. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP
18:25 CET+01:00
France avoided some of world football's biggest nations in Friday evening's World Cup draw. Instead, Les Bleus will face Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E.

France avoided some of world football's biggest nations in Friday evening's World Cup draw. Instead, Les Bleus will face Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E. 

France have played their Swiss neighbours a grand total of 36 times in their history, winning 15, losing 12, and drawing nine. The two countries have only met once in a World Cup, however, and on that occasion it ended in a 0-0 group-stage draw in Stuttgart at the 2006 finals.

Ecuador took on Les Bleus in 2008, losing 2-0 in the two sides' only meeting, a friendly in the southern city of Grenoble, while France will play Honduras for the first time ever in Brazil in 2014.

Here's a breakdown of the French team, and their three opponents in the opening round of next summer's World Cup.


Les Bleus celebrate their astonishing comeback victory against Ukraine last month. Photo: K. Tribouillard/AFP

FRANCE

Coach: Didier Deschamps

After coming second behind reigning world and European champions Spain in their qualifying group, France seemed set to miss a major tournament finals for the first time in two decades when they lost 2-0 in Ukraine in the first leg of their play-off.

Failure would have been just the latest chapter in a rather gloomy recent history for Les Bleus, but a superb performance in a 3-0 second-leg victory booked their place in Brazil.

Deschamps, who captained France to glory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, must try to develop young talents such as Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba and get the best out of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema.

However, France will settle for a respectable showing as they build towards Euro 2016, which they will host. 


Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP

SWITZERLAND

Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld

The Swiss qualified for the finals from probably the weakest European group, finishing top despite being held to draws by Cyprus and Iceland.

This will be their second World Cup finals under Hitzfeld - in 2010 in South Africa, they beat Spain in their opening game and yet failed to make it out of their group.

With a favourable draw, they will hope to progress this time, with Hitzfeld able to call on the likes of Napoli's Gokhan Inler and Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich.


Christian "Chucho" Benitez (C), who died in July, celebrates with teammates in March. Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFP

ECUADOR

Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

Ecuador qualified for their third World Cup finals after finishing ahead of Uruguay on goal difference to take the final automatic berth from South America.

However, while Reinaldo Rueda's side were excellent at home, they failed to win any of their qualifiers away from Quito, where the altitude gives them a huge advantage.

They were also shaken by the sudden death of striker Chucho Benitez in July, but they will go to Brazil with a squad captained by Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia and featuring powerful forward Felipe Caicedo. Coach Rueda is a Colombian who took Honduras to the 2010 World Cup finals.


Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP

HONDURAS

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

Honduras finished four points ahead of Mexico to take the final automatic qualifying berth in the CONCACAF zone after a campaign which featured a win away to the Mexicans at the Azteca stadium.

The Central American nation of just over eight million people are through to their third World Cup finals, and second in a row, with Suarez following in the footsteps of his fellow Colombian Reinaldo Rueda, who took 'Los Catrachos' to South Africa in 2010.

The squad features a handful of European-based players, such as Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre and Wilson Palacios of Stoke City.

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