2014 World Cup Preview: Group E

Group E - Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland

Ecuador
Ranked 28th in the world.
Finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying, posting a 7-5-4 record to advance.

Ecuador is playing in its third World Cup in the last four tournaments, having reached the Round of 16 in Germany in 2006. Historically dominant at home in Quito, where elevation reaches 9,350 feet, La Tri went 7-0-1 at home during qualifying and 0-5-3 away from those confines.

Former Manchester City forward Felipe Caicedo is the top attacking option for Ecuador with 15 goals in 49 national team appearances. Now with Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates, he has the potential to emerge as a bright star on the worldwide stage at just 25 years old. Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia captains the squad and has eight goals in 70 appearances. He is one of just four players that remain from the 2006 World Cup team, so it will be a new experience for most of the squad.

France
Ranked 16th in the world.
Qualified with a 5-2-1 record in the Group Stage of UEFA qualifying, needing a playoff win over Ukraine to reach the World Cup.

One of the more hot and cold teams in the world, France won the World Cup on its home soil in 1998 and finished second in Germany in 2006. However, they failed to advance out of the Group Stage in 2002 and 2010 and missed the tournament altogether in 1990 and 1994. In six matches at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, France managed just one goal.

France is riddled with big-club players from around Europe and has astrike force that includes Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy, but is also anchored by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. That group had the resolve to battle back from a 2-0 deficit in the playoff against Ukraine to reach the World Cup with a 3-0 win in the second leg in Saint-Denis, France. That same resiliency could help France get through the rounds in the Knockout Stage after what is a winnable group.

Honduras
Ranked 30th in the world
Finished second in the CONCACAF region with a 4-3-3 record in the Hexagonal Round.

This is the third World Cup trip for Honduras, but Los Catrachos are looking for their first win. Honduras is paired with Switzerland for the second straight tournament after they played to a scoreless draw in 2010 in South Africa.

There are many familiar faces to MLS fans on the Honduras roster, with eight players toting MLS experience. That includes former Sounders FC midfielder Mario Martinez, who has three goals in 36 appearances. A key for Honduras is the play of former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza and the setup play of Boniek Garcia of the Houston Dynamo. The forward tandem of Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson has scored in bunches in the CONCACAF region, but will need to prove they can succeed at the World Cup level.

Switzerland
Ranked 8th in the world
Qualified with a 7-3-0 record in Group E of UEFA qualifying.

After reaching the Round of 16 in Germany in 2006 and winning the opening match of the 2010 tournament against Spain, things looked good for Switzerland in South Africa. However, it couldn't replicate that success and finished with a 1-1-1 Group Stage record, third in a group that featured Spain, Chile and Honduras. Now favored, Switzerland will have a rematch with Honduras this time around.

Switzerland's strength is in its experience from the goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders. Led by the midfield trio of Gokhan Inler, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swiss have veteran savvy and a pair of young stars. However, the four forwards on the roster have just nine international goals among them. Already a strong international force, a scorer stepping up in Brazil could help Switzerland reach even further.

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