- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) - The referee’s final whistle came mercifully for Switzerland after it was completely out-classed in a 5-2 loss to France at the World Cup.

It could have been even worse if Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers hadn’t blown full time a split second before Karim Benzema drove the ball into the top right corner from the edge of the area.

He raced off to celebrate what would have been France’s sixth goal - and his second of the game - but it did not count.

“I didn’t hear the whistle,” Benzema said. “But, it did not matter, five goals is more than enough.”

The Swiss squad had had more than enough, too, despite scoring two late consolation goals.

Their biggest strength - the defense and team play - became their undoing as France raced to a 2-0 lead.

“The two quick goals really broke us,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. “It was hard to come back to the game.”

Until Friday, Switzerland lost just once in 18 matches over the past two years and reached No. 6 in the FIFA rankings. It all unraveled against a team they hadn’t beaten since 1992

“It was a bleak day for us,” Hitzfeld said. “We were not able to show our true potential.”

Much was expected of the Swiss in Brazil, where they were seeded in Group E.

The opening match wasn’t a real confidence boost, with the 2-1 win over Ecuador only sealed with a dramatic goal by Haris Seferovic in the 93rd minute.

The sloppy match was the first warning. The defeat against France has alarm bells ringing. Switzerland slipped into third spot - on goal difference - when Ecuador beat Honduras 2-1 in the later match.

Hitzfeld said that an early exit by his central defender Steve Von Bergen after a rough tackle by Olivier Giroud, which left the Swiss player with bloodied head, contributed to the defeat.

“Philippe Sanderos had to come straight from the bench without a proper warm-up,” Hitzfeld said. “Of course, this is not an excuse, but it hampered our defensive line.”

Still, Hitzfeld said he was optimistic that Switzerland could qualify from the group by beating Honduras in the last group match. France will take on Ecuador in the other remaining group match.

“Everything is in our hands,” Hitzfeld said. “We still have a good chance of qualifying.”

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