France all but secures last-16 place


France all but secured a place in the last 16 as three first-half goals helped them to an easy Group E win over Switzerland in Salvador.

Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock with a stunning header before Blaise Matuidi blasted the second 66 seconds later after poor goalkeeping.

Karim Benzema had a penalty saved before Mathieu Valbuena added a third.

Goals by Benzema and Moussa Sissoko made it 5-0 before late consolations from Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka.

France’s dominance at Arena Fonte Nova was every bit as emphatic as the scoreline suggests.

Les Bleus, seeking to reach a third final in five World Cups, annihilated a poor Swiss team and sent out a message of intent to their rivals.

Didier Deschamps’s side move to six points at the top of their group, with a match against Ecuador on 25 June to come.

Having self-destructed in South Africa four years ago, the French are clearly enjoying South America.

They have scored eight goals in their first two games, and the way they dismantled Switzerland suggests they could be serious contenders in Brazil.

The Swiss were not helped by the ninth-minute loss of defender Steve Von Bergen to injury. But Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men were no match for their rampant opponents and were left humbled and humiliated.

Switzerland had beaten Ecuador 2-1 in their first game and, despite the loss of Von Bergen, there was little evidence of what was to follow.

Giroud’s goal, the 100th France have scored in World Cup finals, set his team on their way, the Arsenal forward leaping high above the Swiss defence to direct an unstoppable header into the net.

They doubled that lead 66 seconds later when Matuidi fired home after Velon Behrami conceded possession carelessly soon after the restart.

It looked all over when referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot after Benzema was brought down by Johan Djourou, but goalkeeper Diego Benaglio kept out Benzema’s penalty and Mathieu Debuchy smashed the rebound against the woodwork.

But that let-off only briefly delayed Switzerland’s pain, Valbuena connecting with Giroud’s cross to make it 3-0 five minutes before the interval.

Benzema did manage to score his third of the tournament with a clinical finish after good work by substitute Paul Pogba midway through the second half.

And Sissoko made it 5-0 in the 73rd minute after more shambolic defending, before the Swiss scored two late consolation goals.

First Dzemaili beat Hugo Lloris from 40 yards with a remarkable low free-kick, before Xhaka beat the French offside trap before finding the net.

But it was too little, too late for the Swiss against a powerful French side that looks determined to make a serious impact.

Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld:

“It was truly a very bleak day for us.

“Of course there will be a lot of criticism, quite appropriately, but the team will come together.

“France are one of the teams that certainly can go very far in this tournament.

“They were much superior to England or Italy.”

France manager Didier Deschamps:

“I don’t want to put a brake on the enthusiasm.

“It’s a huge satisfaction within the team but we’re not going to get carried away,

“We shouldn’t think we’re prettier than we are.

“Karim Benzema is confirming that he’s in very, very good form.

“His happiness is a joy to behold, he’s one of the best players in the world and having such an efficient player is very important in a competition like this.”