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 alls 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.
“They can go very far in this tournament,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said through a translator. “We have seen France’s potential. They had an explosion of power.”
Deschamps had dropped midfielder Paul Pogba, who was lucky not to be sent off against Honduras for aiming a wild kick at Wilson Palacios, warning him that he needs to control his temper better.
After coming on as a substitute, Pogba sent an exquisite pass with the outside of his right boot that had Senderos kicking at air, and Benzema finished confidently for his third goal of the tournament. The Real Madrid forward then instigated a move and waited for Sissoko to break down the right, serving him with an inch-perfect pass.
The Swiss conceded far too easily.
Giroud jumped above Behrami from near the back of the penalty area to head powerfully under the crossbar in the 17th minute. Then, Valon Behrami gave the ball away to Benzema, who fed Matuidi sprinting down the left, and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder slotted neatly inside the near post.
The Swiss had only one shot on target in the first half, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris diving low to keep out Mehmedi’s drive. Shaqiri picked up the rebound and scuffed a low shot that rolled just wide.
That close miss went unpunished by Benzema, who missed from the spot after being tripped by Johan Djourou in the 32nd. Yohan Cabaye hit the crossbar from the rebound.
It mattered little as Giroud galloped into space down the left and picked out Valbuena at the back post in the 40th with a classic counterattacking goal.