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Switzerland vs. France: 50-50 Challenge

Our expert bloggers will give their thoughts ahead of each game, so as Switzerland take on France in Group E, Brian Homewood (Switzerland) and Jonathan Johnson (France) are your guides.

What's at stake?

Brian Homewood: In terms of the group, Switzerland's 2-1 win over Ecuador has put them in a comfortable position. Given that they are expected to beat Honduras in their final game, they will probably be happy with a draw. The past three meetings between the two sides have ended in draws, most recently at the 2006 World Cup in a group match. Switzerland also faced the French at Euro 2004, losing 3-1. Switzerland's last win over France was in 1992 and they have not won any of the past five meetings against their larger neighbour.

Jonathan Johnson:France and Switzerland have drawn their past three meetings, and out of 36 encounters, Les Bleus shade the fixture historically with 15 victories. Their last clash came in the Group G opener at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, finishing 0-0. As neighbours, there is more than pride at stake for both the French and the Swiss -- a win for either will send them into the last 16 with a game to spare. France won their first World Cup opening fixture since 1998 with victory against Honduras, and Didier Deschamps' men will be desperate to continue that form.

X factor

BH:No player has had quite such an extraordinary effect on a game as Valon Behrami did against Ecuador. In the dying seconds of stoppage time, his last-gasp tackle on Michael Arroyo denied the South Americans a winner. He then charged out of defence, survived a flying tackle and started a counter-attack that led to Switzerland scoring the winning goal with the last kick of the game.

JJ: Karim Benzema has already started to fulfill his immense promise in Brazil, scoring twice on his World Cup debut in the 3-0 win over the Hondurans. However, a number of other players were crucial to an assured French performance against Los Catrachos. Chief among them was Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who was brilliant as France's midfield anchor and was afforded enough space to act as a footballing equivalent of a quarterback. His impeccable passing and faultless vision allowed him to orchestrate from deep, but he will need to embrace his more defensive duties against a talented Switzerland side.

Fear factor

BH: The centre of the Swiss defence remains suspect, which means that Benzema is likely to pose the main threat. He has had an excellent season at the Bernabeu with Real Madrid and is likely to be too strong for Steve von Bergen, who plays for Young Boys in the Swiss league, and either Johan Djourou or Philippe Senderos..

JJ: Although Xherdan Shaqiri was disappointing in La Nati's opener against Ecuador in Brasilia, the Bayern Munich schemer is a precocious talent and the player whom France will fear most going into Friday's clash at Arena Fonte Nova. The 22-year-old is fast, technically brilliant and will be a serious goal threat to a French defence that has not fully convinced. If Les Bleus can keep Shaqiri quiet, then Deschamps will be confident that his team can overcome Ottmar Hitzfeld's men elsewhere. However, if given time and space, the former FC Basel star will punish the French.

Key battle

BH: Blaise Matuidi vs. Xherdan Shaqiri. Switzerland have plenty of attacking potential, but in recent matches, they have had trouble moving the ball from defence to attack. Shaqiri often drops back to help the Swiss build their attacks and on his day his combination of close control, trickery and incisive passes can make him very dangerous. As one of France's better tacklers, Matuidi is likely to have his hands full trying to keep Shaqiri subdued. If he succeeds, Switzerland's supply lines could dry up.

JJ: While Shaqiri is the main danger for France against the Swiss, they cannot ignore the goal threat posed by Josip Drmic. The 21-year-old enjoyed an impressive season with FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga -- earning an early summer move to Bayer Leverkusen -- and he will be keen to trouble Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny. None of three look entirely convincing, although Sakho and Varane -- a talented but young and relatively inexperienced pairing -- kept a clean sheet against Honduras. Deschamps needs to consider his options at the back ahead of what promises to be a sterner examination.

Prediction

BH: A 1-1 draw. The manner of the Ecuador win was a huge boost to Switzerland's morale. They are a hungry young team capable of giving France a run for their money, although a clean sheet is unlikely.

JJ: France to win 2-1 and all but guarantee their place in the last 16 with a game to spare. It will be tight, with Switzerland enjoying more chances than Honduras did in the opening fixture, but Les Bleus' momentum should carry them through this one. With Benzema on form and the team looking united, Deschamps and his players showed that they are ready to draw a line under their past struggles in the group stage with a no-nonsense victory over Honduras. Another convincing win here will confirm that and could enhance France's credentials as dark horses.

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