France top of the class but could do better

Scoreless draw against Ecuador enough to top Group F but performance lacked intensity

Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo reacts after a missed chance  against France. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo reacts after a missed chance against France. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters


France 0 Ecuador 0

The first two weeks of the World Cup has been dominated by the Latin American teams but last night France helped dispatch Ecuador from the tournament with a 0-0 in Rio’s Maracanã stadium and provided further evidence that the remaining Europeans will have a say in the title’s destiny yet.

Didier Deschamps made six changes from the team that steamrolled Switzerland but the already qualified French were still strong enough to deny their opponents the win they desperately needed, extracting a modicum of revenge for the humiliations heaped on the Old Continent earlier in the week with Ecuador becoming the only team from South America not to progress to the knockout stages.

Only Mamadou Sakho retained his place in the French back four but it still shut out an Ecuadorean team that became more and more desperate for goals as the night unfolded. True, the prolific French attack of the first two games failed to score - a combination of sloppiness in front of goal and a eye-catching performance by Ecuador’s goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

It was perhaps unsurprising given the number of changes that the French line-up was sapped of some of the fluidity that had so impressed in the first two games. With classification already secured there was also less of the blistering urgency evident against Honduras and Switzerland.

But the French were still the better team in a lively first half.

Ecuador had hoped that a point would be enough but an early Swiss goal in the group’s other game meant they needed to win. They tried gamely - Antonio Valencia sending Michael Arroyo free on the left with Hugo Lloris gathering his shot - before news of a second Swiss goal filtered through.

That did not deter the large Ecuadorean support which responded with a chorus of ‘Sí se puede’ - Yes we can. But a scuffed shot from Christhian Noboa and a backpost header from the eager Enner Valencia that Hugo Lloris eventually gathered was the best they could produce.

The rejigged French were looking the more dangerous. Asked to play off Karim Benzema, Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann showed some classy early touches and had an early shot hit the side netting.

The best chance of the half came towards the end and was French. Full back Juan Paredes tumbled over his adventurous opposite number Lucas Digne by the corner flag. From his free kick Paul Pogba had a header tipped over by Dominguez.

The French took up immediately from where they left off after the interval, Griezmann unlucky to see his flick at a Bacary Sagna cross come back off the crossbar the closet to breaking the deadlock either team came all night.

Ecuador’s task became all but impossible when their captain Antonio Valencia was shown a straight red for planting his studs on Digne in what was, considering the task his team faced, a rash dive for a 50-50 ball.

The remaining ten men in yellow plugged away but lacked the numbers and most crucially the quality to properly trouble the French.

Benzema seemed determined to use his time on the pitch to score the goal that would see him re-join the leaders in the race for the golden boot award but was denied several times by Dominguez.

A third Swiss goal meant Ecuador’s stay in the competition was all but over. But though the ten men needed two goals in the final minutes their support roared them on, the Sí se puedes becoming louder the more misplaced the belief seemed. There were several breaks with Enner rolling a pass into the path of Noboa but he could not get his shot on target. Then Montero broke through shortly afterwards but ran the ball out before he could get a shot away.

The late, last charge was valiant but doomed. A South American team is going home.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.