SALVADOR, Brazil: France thrashed Switzerland 5-2 to surge closer to the World Cup last 16 as Costa Rica booked their place in the knockout rounds with a 1-0 upset of Italy, which confirmed England’s exit.
Goals from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko gave rampant France a thumping victory as the 1998 champions ran riot in Salvador.
Switzerland scored consolation goals through Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka but Les Bleus now look all but certain to win Group E.
France will have to wait until next week’s final round of games to formally seal their second round berth after Ecuador came from behind to beat Honduras 2-1. Carlo Costly put Honduras 1-0 ahead before Ecuador fought back with two goals from Enner Valencia.
France’s earlier victory came four years to the day after the anniversary of the French squad’s infamous strike at the South Africa World Cup.
But the acrimony and discord of 2010 was a long distant memory as France tore Switzerland to shreds with an exhibition of attacking teamwork.
France coach Didier Deschamps, the captain of his country’s 1998 World Cup triumph, said he saw similarities in team spirit amongst his squad.
“You can’t compare dressing rooms to the one in 1998, but I have a very focused group and they have the mind-set which they want to maintain,” said Deschamps.
“There is a force which is rising, it’s not a guarantee of our success, but this
mind-set is very powerful.”
Dejected Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld believes France are rapidly emerging as contenders for the title.
“We were aware that we needed to take the game to them, but if you are chasing things, France have excellent individual players.
“They are one of the teams who can go very far in this tournament, they are superior to the likes of England or Italy.”
France are one of the few European teams to have shone so far in Brazil and there was more woe for the continent’s contingent on Friday as Italy slumped to defeat against Costa Rica in Group D.
Bryan Ruiz’s 44th-minute header clinched a deserved victory which sent Costa Rica into the second round for th first time since the 1990 finals in Italy.
The result also condemned England, beaten by Uruguay on Thursday, to their earliest exit from the World Cup for 56 years.
England needed Italy to beat the Costa Ricans to retain faint hopes of qualification.
But a lacklustre Azzurri struggled to impose themselves in the afternoon heat of Recife’s Pernambuco Arena.
Ruiz rose to head a cross from Junior Diaz in off the crossbar. The goal came just moments after Costa Rica had been denied a clear penalty by referee Enrique Osses when Joel Campbell was bundled over by Giorgio Chiellini.
Costa Rica’s victory means they need only draw against England in their final first round match next Tuesday to top the group.
Italy face a nervous final match against Uruguay. A draw will be enough for the Italians but a Uruguay win would put them through instead.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had limited sympathy for England.
“I’m really sorry for them, but also for us!” said Prandelli.
“Because we also wanted to win. I don’t have any messages for England. We have our own issues to solve.”
England’s exit is their earliest since 1958. However the English Football Association swiftly backed under-fire coach Roy Hodgson on Friday, saying he would remain in the job until 2016.
“We are supportive of Roy Hodgson and would like him to stay as manager,” FA chairman Greg Dyke said in comments reported by British media.
FIFA meanwhile withdrew Colombian linesman Humberto Clavijo from World Cup duties after he flagged two offsides in error during Mexico’s 1-0 victory over Cameroon.
Two goals by Mexico’s Giovani Dos Santos were ruled offside in Friday’s Group A game.
Clavijo has been take off the list for Sunday’s Group H match between South Korea and Algeria because of the mistakes, said FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer.