Ecuador may pick off Swiss on the counter.
According to FIFA rankings, Switzerland are the most improved nation in world football over the last 18 months after failing to reach Euro 2012.
They certainly qualified with aplomb for the finals, finishing top of their section by seven points and keeping seven clean sheets. Admittedly, they were in arguably the weakest group – Iceland finished second – but vastly-experienced coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has restored belief and some of their best players play for some of Europe’s leading clubs.
Stephan Lichtsteiner has just won the Scudetto with Juventus, while Gökhan Inler and former West Ham midfielder Valon Behrami are at Napoli. Xherdan Shaqiri was part of the Bayern Munich squad that won the Bundesliga and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, though was often a peripheral figure.
Switzerland have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup on three occasions, though the last time was sixty years ago and their first ambition this year will be to get out of a group that looks tight on paper.
Ecuador finished fourth in the South American qualifying group, taking the last automatic spot, but didn’t win a single game outside of their own borders and that has to be a worry in Brazil.
Recent friendly results have hardly boosted confidence either as they’ve won just one of their last six and needed a last-minute goal against Australia in that.
Reinaldo Rueda’s team will almost certainly try and catch teams on the break as they have some quick forwards and Felipe Caicedo, who scored eight goals in qualifying, is a decent finisher. But their defence is suspect and they concede possession far too easily in midfield, a failure that better teams will exploit.
Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia is their key man as he’ll be asked to supply most of the ammunition for Caicedo and Jefferson Montero – but will his side be able to keep the back door shut?
This is a match that, on paper, could decide who accompanies France through to the knockout stages. Ecuador are probably better equipped to cope with likely conditions than the Swiss but that woeful away record is a concern.
On balance, however, the South Americans look better value at 19/10 to make a winning start and are 3/1 to win by a one-goal margin.
The match kicks off at 5pm UK time on Sunday, June 15th in Estadio Nacional, Brasilia.