15 June 2014 | News Comments

Preview: Your guide to Sunday's games

GROUP E
Switzerland v Ecuador, 15 June 2014 Estádio Nacional de Brasília, kick-off: 17.00 Irish time

Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland side stormed through qualifying, making light work of their opponents and dropping just six points along the way.

In Ecuador, they find a team far outside their comfort zone. There were no secrets to the success of Ecuador’s qualifying campaign: of 25 points collected in qualifying, 22 came from home ties played at the oxygen-starved altitude of Quito. Switzerland should win, and here’s how they might achieve that:

Gung-ho left-back
Attacking Swiss left-back Ricardo Rodriguez scored five times in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg last season and provided nine assists for his team-mates, suggesting that when Switzerland do threaten, his piercing forward runs and deadly crossing will be key.

Unbreakable
A well-drilled backline was the most impressive element of Switzerland’s road to Brazil; they kept clean sheets in 70% of their matches - more than any other team to make the tournament. Ecuador had the second-lowest scoring rate of the 32 finalists in qualification, at just 1.25 per game.

A ray of hope
In Edison Mendez and Antonio Valencia however, Ecuador are a threat from free-kicks. Ecuador demonstrated their effectiveness from these situations throughout qualifying, by creating a fifth of their goals this way. However, Switzerland didn't concede from a single free-kick in their campaign.

Summary
The challenge for Ottmar Hitzfeld in this tournament will be to get his team scoring goals without compromising their defensive solidity. Ecuador, for their part, shouldn't trouble them. In Mendez Ecuador have a free-kick specialist, but with star man and captain Valencia coming off the back of a poor campaign for Manchester United, few will expect them to spring a surprise here.

France vs Honduras, José Pinheiro Borda, Porto Alegre, kick-off: 20.00
Despite the absence of the injured Franck Ribery and highly-rated Samir Nasri, who was controversially left at home by boss Didier Deschamps, the French team boast enough experience and quality to take all three points from the Hondurans, who won less than half of their games during qualifying.

Valbuena could be key
France were at their best during qualifying when attacking through right and central positions, creating 84% of their 18 goals from those areas. The battle between Valbuena and Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre could prove crucial in the outcome of this match.

Get ahead and stay ahead
During qualifying, in all six games in which they struck first, France went on to win. Given that Honduras failed to score in 38 per cent of their matches, an opening goal for the 1998 World Cup winners might prove enough to take three points.

Honduras looking to leave it late?
The physical strength of the Hondurans should make them more accustomed to the Brazilian climate and, given that 28% of their goals during qualifiers came in the final 15 minutes, boss Luis Fernando Suarez could opt to keep things compact early on before using Roger Espinoza, Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson during the latter stages to exploit a potentially tired France defence.

Summary
Expectations will be high for the French to begin their Group B campaign with a comfortable win over their Central American opponents after the Hondurans failed to record a win during three pre-World Cup friendlies against European sides Turkey, Israel and England. However, with France themselves failing to score in almost a third of their qualifying matches and Honduras surpassing that record by firing blanks in 38 per cent of their games on the road to Brazil - the worst of any team at the finals - the stats suggest a solitary goal could settle this potentially low-scoring affair.

GROUP F


Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho Maracana, kick-off: 2300

Argentina will face World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina knowing that anything but finishing top of Group F would be cause for concern.

Soft-centred Bosnia?
With the threat of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain - all of whom are among the favourites to claim the Golden Boot - Bosnia will face a huge task of keeping the free-scoring South Americans at bay. The statistics don't bode well for the Balkan side either; two-thirds of the qualifying goals shipped by Safet Susic's team came through their apparently vulnerable centre.

Goals aplenty in Rio
Both teams come into this Group F opener in good scoring form with Bosnia in particular averaging an impressive three qualifying goals per game - only Germany, Holland, England and Ghana scored more frequently. However, Argentina's average of 2.19 is almost as impressive, given the relative difficulty of the South American qualifying group.

Deadly duos
Bosnia's strike duo of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic will offer hope of a potential shock against the experienced Argentinians - the emphatic pair managed an impressive haul of 18 goals between them during qualifying. Interestingly though, only one attacking combination was more productive on the road to Brazil - opposing duo for the day Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain managed one more between them - and that's without factoring in Sergio Aguero's.

Summary
Considering world rankings alone (16 places separate these two sides), it's hard to see beyond Argentina beginning their 2014 World Cup campaign with a win, especially given their embarrassment of attacking riches.