Italy players celebrate UEFA Euro championship after their 3-2 shootout win against England at Wembley Stadium in England: UFEA

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France to good for Swiss

International Sports

France beats Swiss 5-2 .France beats Swiss 5-2 .France has been at the World Cup for two games now and, so far, there has been no locker room explosion. The players haven't gone on strike. And no one has been sent home for insulting the coach's mother.

For Les Bleus, after the désastre of 2010, this counts as progress.

So does their 5-2 victory against Switzerland here on Friday evening, which all but booked France's spot in the knockout rounds. A point in its final group-stage game against Ecuador next Wednesday would be enough to win Group E and set up a matchup with the runner-up of Argentina's group. Switzerland, meanwhile, must better Ecuador's result when it faces Honduras.

Les Bleus have notched eight goals in Brazil now after fretting about their ability to rack up goals throughout their qualifying campaign. Their total for the previous three World Cups combined is 10, which includes a run to the final in 2006.

The victory came on the fourth anniversary of the infamous "Greve du Bus," when the players refused to train in Knysna, South Africa. Les Bleus insist they've moved past it. In fact, after star winger Franck Ribery pulled out of the World Cup with a back problem, the squad was left with just four survivors of the 2010 World Cup.

When it came up in the pre-match news conference, head coach Didier Deschamps puffed out his cheeks and rolled his eyes.

For the players it may be old news. But for the fans, it has been a long four years. Euro 2012 was a damp squib that came with its own moments of ugliness (see: Samir Nasri publicly cursing out a journalist). And the preparations for this tournament came with the lowest expectations in years.

Brazil is a chance for Les Bleus to restore the image. So far, it seems to have worked. In a country where many people still believe that rugby is the true national sport and soccer is a game for immigrants and the overpaid, Les Bleus are riding a new wave of support. (A group of fans even waved a flag from the separatist Basque region alongside the Tricolore inside the Arena Fonte Nova on Friday.)

And that comes from a perception of togetherness within the squad.

"The balance of a team is always fragile," goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris said before the game. "You have to maintain it daily, and you maintain it with victories."

France took hold of the game with two goals in the space of 66 seconds in the first half. Olivier Giroud gave his side the lead with a header from a Mathieu Valbuena corner kick before Karim Benzema set up Blaise Matuidi to beat the Swiss goalkeeper with a shot at the near post.

Valbuena, the only player to appear in every game since head coach Didier Deschamps took over in 2012, got a goal for himself to make it 3-0 before halftime. The move that led to his strike saw the team take fewer than 10 touches between defending a Swiss corner kick and the goal.

The second half goals came from Moussa Sissoko and Benzema.

Benzema has the luxury of playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel di Maria for his club side Real Madrid, and is often been criticized for his low productivity with the national team. But his run of eight goals in his last seven games for France means that he has now matched the total for his previous 34 national team appearances, according to Opta Sports.

And he could have had two on Friday, but his 32nd minute penalty kick was saved by Diego Benaglio, with Yohan Cabaye smashing the rebound against the woodwork, and although he did find the net again, the referee had just whistled for full-time.

Two goals for Switzerland in the final 10 minutes—on a free kick and a volley by Granit Xhaka—dampened the mood slightly among the Marseillaise-belting French support. Still, one look at the scoreboard helped fix that and, perhaps, push Knysna a little further into the past


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