Venue – Mangaung/Bloemfontein
Date – Friday June 25th
Kick-Off – 19:30
Switzerland head into their final group match with Honduras on Friday night with realistic hopes of qualification for the knock-out stages. As is often the case at this stage of the World Cup, there are many permutations, as the order of Group H is resolved.
Chile and Spain face-off in the days other Group H encounter, with the outcome of great importance to Hitzfeld’s men.
Chile top the group with 6 points, with Spain and the Swiss behind with 3 each. In order for Switzerland to qualify, a win over Honduras is more than likely to be a requirement, coupled with the hope that the other result goes their way.
Should Spain beat Chile, all three sides would sit with 6 points and goal difference will decide who is to progress, with the Swiss needing to win by at least two goals to qualify at the expense of Chile. Whilst anything less than a Spain victory, means any win for Switzerland sees them through.
How Group H looks heading into the final matches
Hitzfeld’s side are likely to be still fuming about the controversial sending off of Valon Behrami in the match against Chile, which ultimately led to their defeat. ‘The red card was not even a yellow’, blasted Hitzfeld. ‘The red card made it hard to defend our goal for 90 minutes’.
They should feel confident of beating a Honduras side that are yet to pick up a point or score a goal at this year’s finals, in what is the first ever meeting between the nations. The Swiss must switch their focus however, as the margin of victory may be crucial, an attacking approach is expected.
Goals Goals Goals – The Swiss will look to Frei to fire them into the knock-outs
Philippe Senderos will again be unavailable for the Swiss as he nurses an ankle injury, but he holds out hope of making a return for the next match if his side can progress to the round of 16. Behrami will be missing as he serves a one-match ban for his sending-off, with Tranquillo Barnetta likely to return to the starting XI.
Honduras have nothing to lose in this game and may opt to alter their side and/or tactical approach because of this. Despite being largely outplayed in their previous two matches, the Hondurans have competed well and thanks to impressive displays from goalkeeper Noel Valladares, have limited the size of their defeats.
Incredibly, Honduras can still qualify for the last 16, albeit requiring a convincing win over the Swiss, combined with a convincing win for Chile over Spain. However unlikely the probability of this, Honduran coach Reinaldo Rueda, remains upbeat, ‘We must go out to win and dignity must emerge’ he said. ‘We must take into account that we still have a faint chance of qualifying’, the Columbian added.
With changes possible in the Honduras side, Rueda may choose to re-write the World Cup history books by selecting the three Palacios brothers (Wilson, Johnny and Jerry) to start.
A tense finish to Group H is likely, with Hitzfeld hoping his defensive minded side can inflict a convincing victory on Honduras, and at least complete their part of the deal in their quest for group qualification.