France to the fore with 5-2 win
Les Bleus show pace, power and precision to thrash the Swiss
(Dzemaili 81, Xhaka 87)
(Giroud 17, Matuidi 18, Valbuena 40, Benzema 67, Sissoko 73)
On June 20, 2010, the French football team went on strike, humiliating themselves and their nation in front of the world's media.
Two days later, their campaign ended with an embarrassing loss to host nation South Africa.
Exactly four years on, they crushed Switzerland in Salvador and took control of Group E, sending out an ominous message to their rivals: The real France are back.
They entered this World Cup as wild cards, having qualified by the skin of their teeth in the play-offs.
They are no longer wild cards.
A point against Ecuador, a far weaker side than Switzerland, will give them the first-place finish they need to avoid Argentina in the next round.
They have pace, they have power, they have precision passing. They have a real chance.
With the exception of Germany, there isn't a team in Europe that have settled so quickly into South America.
Only four members of that ill-fated 2010 squad remain, and how it shows.
When Olivier Giroud headed home their first goal after 17 minutes, he and his teammates dashed to the bench to celebrate with the coaching staff and substitutes.
In 2010, it was a rotten squad, divided and fractured, led by a discredited manager. Now they have Didier Deschamps, the World Cup-winning captain of 1998, and there is no lack of fraternity amongst the players.
As if to reinforce the point, France scored again 13 seconds after the restart, breaking through Karim Benzema, his pass finding Blaise Matuidi who beat Diego Benaglio at the near post.
There is no complacency here.
Switzerland rallied, as you would expect from a team managed by the legendary Ottmar Hitzfeld, but not to any great effect.
Granit Xhaka had a goal disallowed, quite rightly given that he was a metre offside, while Haris Seferovic and Xherdan Shaqiri both tested Hugo Lloris in quick succession on the half hour, and were both denied. And that was as good as it got for Hitzfeld.
Shortly afterwards, Johan Djourou needlessly felled Benzema and gave away a penalty.
The Real Madrid striker brushed himself down and picked up the ball, but saw his spot-kick saved. The ball rebounded to Yohan Cabaye, but he somehow managed to smash the ball against the woodwork as Benaglio tried to get his bearings.
Four years ago, a stroke of luck like that might have demoralised this team. The players might have turned on one another, taking out their frustrations in a most public and self-destructive way.
Not this year.
Eight minutes later, as another Swiss set-piece collapsed, France broke like the wind, Giroud found Mathieu Valbuena and the tiny midfielder slipped the ball home.
Three goals up at the break, France were home and hosed.
They weren't finished there.
Midway through the second half, substitute Paul Pogba unleashed a ridiculously ambitious, outside-of-the-boot through-ball that evaded Philippe Senderos' outstretched leg and was smashed home by Benzema.
A wonderful team goal, finished by Moussa Sissoko after another fine assist from Benzema, swiftly followed.
Switzerland were at least able to take the sting out of the goal difference with two late goals.
A long-range free-kick from Blerim Dzemali slipped underneath the wall and past Lloris, while Xhaka executed a perfect volley from a Gokhan Inler dinked pass.
A five-goal deficit could have caused the Swiss problems, both in terms of progression and morale.
France might have added another through Benzema, had the referee not blown for full time as he connected with the ball, but that matters not.
Four years ago, the French were one of the worst teams in South Africa.
Now, they look like contenders.
Deschamps has effected quite the turnaround.