By Rob McDonald

FRANCE

What We Know:
Riberyless but not arguing, the French are another team that seems to be coming into the tournament without much expectation on them. It is understandable given how they have to over-turn a 2 goal deficit to defeat the Ukraine in the play-offs. Yet still there remains something intriguing about this French team. Deschamps, a defensive manager, could build a strong unit and have the attacking talent to be able to thrive.

What They Could Be:
What I basically said above without meaning to. France could be very good and would help themselves immensely if they can ensure they win the group and avoid Argentina in the second round. A mouth-watering quarter final with Germany could be in the offing and France could easily surprise people if they find a rhythm.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Strong results against Honduras and Ecuador and avoiding defeat against Switzerland would set France up nicely. Should they avoid ripping each other apart and finding a much needed team harmony, France could easily be looking quarter finals and beyond with an emerging star in Antoine Griezmann showing why Franck Ribery isn’t such a big miss.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Antoine Griezmann, the brilliant Real Sociedad – for now – winger, who will look to take advantage of Ribery’s injury.

SWITZERLAND

What We Know:
While everyone talks about how good Belgium and their golden generation are, no one seems to have noticed how good Switzerland and their golden generation are. Granted, that’s probably because none of them are actually from Switzerland but that doesn’t matter, does it? There is also the Ottmar Hitzfeld factor at play. There aren’t many better managers at the World Cup this year.

What They Could Be:
The surprise of the tournament. Chock full of talented players who have been plying their trade at the top end of game as well as a good mixture of younger players who haven’t made the step up yet but probably will, Switzerland should go into the tournament confident of one of the best performances they’ve put in in years.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Unfortunately, they are likely to face Argentina in the second round, which could see them face a swift exit. Despite this, though, a relatively easy group could see the Swiss blossom and prove a difficult task for the Argentines.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Josip Drmic, who has recently signed for Bayer Leverkusen, is the next bright hope for Switzerland. The 21-year-old forward will look to provide the attacking threat along with fellow German-based players Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka.

ECUADOR

What We Know:
Ecuador will take heart from a good draw with England that will re-affirm the belief that they won’t be easy targets for the bigger teams.

What They Could Be:
With the talent and experience of Antonio Valencia and the youth and vitality of Jefferson Montero flanking Felipe Caicedo, Ecuador will fancy themselves to be able to be a threat going forward. Even without the advantage they’ve relied on before of the altitude of their native land, Ecuador will look to build on a strong qualifying campaign.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Entertaining and energetic but ultimately not strong enough to compete with France of Switzerland.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Winger Jefferson Montero is a barrel of laughs.

HONDURAS

What We Know:
Delightfully violent in their friendly draw with England, they will look to strikers Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengston to continue their qualifying campaign form for them to have any hope of progression.

What They Could Be:
Tough and competitive, they could be a pitfall if anyone comes expecting an easy game.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Plucky but not good enough to compete for qualification.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
When your best players play for Wigan, Stoke and Celtic you don’t have much chance of getting Blundell interested in you. Sorry Honduras.

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