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France is magnifique

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France’s Mathieu Valbuena, right, celebrated after his goal gave France a 3-0 lead in the first half.

SALVADOR, Brazil >> France is striking at the World Cup again, this time in a way the fans back home will approve of.  

Four years ago to the day, France’s players shamed the nation by going on strike at the last World Cup. On Friday, the team put on a striking attacking display, blowing Switzerland away with a 5-2 win on Friday to take total control of Group E and put themselves in position to avoid a showdown with Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the next round.

“We were all magnificent tonight,” said goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, one of only four holdovers from the shambles of France’s last World Cup. “We can’t let ourselves get flooded by emotion and must stay calm. But we’re going to savor this.”

Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and winger Mathieu Valbuena each scored one goal and created another to underline both the newfound team spirit in this team and the lethal versatility in attack.

“When you score five goals, it’s ecstasy,” Valbuena said. 

France tops the group with six points, with Ecuador level on three points with Switzerland after beating Honduras 2-1 Friday.

“It was a great night for us. We hurt them with our quick attacks and with the variety of our play,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. 

Giroud and Blasie Matuidi scored a minute apart and Valbuena added another before halftime.

Benzema made up for a first-half penalty miss with a poacher’s finish in the 67th, and then turned provider for Moussa Sissoko, who made it 5-0 in the 73rd.

“Karim is confirming that he’s in very, very good form,” Deschamps said. “He’s in great shape athletically.”

Switzerland pulled two consolation goals back as Blerim Dzemaili scored with a free kick in the 81st and Granit Xhaka slotted in the second in the 87th.

Benzema thought he had scored his second — and the goal of the night — but his curling, first-time strike was ruled out because Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers blew his whistle for full time just seconds before the shot.

“I didn’t hear the whistle,” he said.

Friday marked the fourth anniversary of France’s infamous World Cup training ground strike four years ago in South Africa, when the players shamed a nation back home.

How different things look from 2010. 

“We have to carry on this way and to keep this strength, this irreproachable team spirit we have,” Valbuena said.

France has scored eight goals in two games in the tournament and Benzema could even afford to miss a penalty. 

“It’s a huge satisfaction within the team, but we’re not going to get carried away,” Deschamps said. “We shouldn’t think we’re prettier than we are.”

Switzerland’s demise came rapidly, after center half Steve Von Bergen came off with blood pouring down from under his left eye after Giroud kicked him in the face in the sixth minute. 

He was replaced by Philippe Senderos and things went from bad to awful from then on for a makeshift defense against the ferocious pace of France’s breaks from midfield and the slick movement of its interchanging forwards.

At Salvador, Brazil
Switzerland 0 2 2
France 3 2 5

First half—1, France, Olivier Giroud 1, 17th minute. 2, France, Blaise Matuidi 1, 18th. 3, France, Mathieu Valbuena 1, 40th.
Second half—4, France, Karim Benzema 3, 67th. 5, France, Moussa Sissoko 1, 73rd. 6, Switzerland, Blerim Dzemaili 1, 81st. 7, Switzerland, Granit Xhaka 1, 87th.
Shots—Switzerland 16, France 22.
Shots On Goal—Switzerland 6, France 14.
Missed Penalty Kick—France, Karim Benzema, 33rd.
Yellow Card—France, Yohan Cabaye, 89th.
Offsides—Switzerland 1, France 2.
Fouls Committed—Switzerland 12, France 15.
Fouls Against—Switzerland 15, France 12.
Corner Kicks—Switzerland 5, France 3.
Referee—Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands. Linesmen—Sander Van Roekel, Netherlands; Erwin Zeinstra, Holland.

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