Rampant France sparkled in a 5-2 mauling of neighbours Switzerland in World Cup Group E on Saturday morning to move closer to the knockout phase four years after one of its darkest days.
France, which beat Honduras 3-0 in its opening game, tops the standings with six points and will advance if Ecuador and Honduras draw later.
Goals within 66 seconds from Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi put France 2-0 up inside the opening 20 minutes at the Fonte Nova arena and on its way to a comfortable triumph on the anniversary of the Knysna bus strike at the last tournament in South Africa.
That was a very good match, we did a lot of things right. Five goals against a strong Swiss team, we’ve got six points, that’s ideal.France coach Didier Deschamps
The diminutive Mathieu Valbuena scored a third five minutes before half-time after Karim Benzema’s 32nd-minute penalty was saved by Diego Benaglio.
But Benzema kept up a rich vein of recent scoring form as he grabbed France’s fourth in the 67th minute and Moussa Sissoko added the fifth.
Substitute Blerim Dzemaili hammered home a low free kick nine minutes from time and a volley from Granit Xhaka in the 87th minute gave the Swiss a second late consolation goal.
“That was a very good match, we did a lot of things right,” France coach Didier Deschamps said in a television interview.
France had an explosion in their performance. It’s important that the team sticks together and doesn’t start blaming anyone or let their heads hang.Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld
“Five goals against a strong Swiss team, we’ve got six points, that’s ideal.”
“We’ve got a group with strong opponents. We’ve prepared well but have to get through the match with Ecuador and then we’ll start from scratch again in the next round.”
The emphatic win continued France’s World Cup rehabilitation as it seeks to bury the ghosts of four years ago when a player revolt left its reputation badly stained.
The French also provided the spectacle in Salvador that Deschamps said he had hoped for as the venue has now savoured 17 goals in three games.
France nets 100th World Cup goal
Giroud, restored to the starting line-up, rose firmly after 17 minutes to head home Valbuena’s corner for the first goal and from the kickoff Valon Behrami’s errant pass was picked by Benzema who surged forward to set up Matuidi from the left.
Had Benaglio better covered his near post he might have stopped it but the swift double blow was tantamount to an early knockout.
Giroud’s effort was the 100th for France in the World Cup finals, putting the country in an elite group with Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.
A needless trip on Benzema by Swiss centre-back Johan Djourou just past the half-hour mark brought a penalty but Benzema’s spot-kick was saved and Yohan Cabaye crashed the follow-up against the crossbar.
The third came within 10 minutes, however, as Giroud ran deep from his own half on a swift-counter attack to set up Valbuena for the third and France were comfortably in command at half-time.
The second half started with an exchange from shots by both teams, all restricted to the edge of the penalty area, before the goals began to rain in again.
Substitute Paul Pogba’s exquisite pass with the outside of his boot allowed Benzema to turn and score the fourth through the goalkeeper’s legs as he netted a ninth goal in France’s last eight matches.
The striker turned provider for Sissoko, who weighted his shot perfectly past the sprawling Benaglio for the fifth goal five minutes later.
Benzema thought he had added a sixth in stoppage-time but the referee blew the final whistle moments before his volley hit the net in a reminder for the home audience of the controversy in 1978 when Welsh referee Clive Thomas denied Zico a winner for Brazil against Sweden in similar circumstances.
The two late goals brought some consolation for a sizeable Swiss contingent in the 51,003-strog crowd but Benzema must take blame for allowing Dzemaili’s free kick to slip under his foot as he jumped out of the way while positioned in the wall.
Xhaka’s goal might have been the best of the seven as swivelled to score from close range.
“France had an explosion in their performance,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said.
“It’s important that the team sticks together and doesn’t start blaming anyone or let their heads hang. That’s why it was enormously important that we reacted in the second half.
“With the two goals we’re still full of hope that we can make it to the next round.”