Ecuador 0 France 0: Highlights, key battles and what the result means
Published on Jun 26, 2014 6:49 AM
Ecuador's hopes of joining the South American party in the World Cup's last 16 were crushed as soon as captain Antonio Valencia's right boot connected with the knee of Lucas Digne.
As the young France left-back lay writhing in pain on the Maracana turf, the Manchester United winger was rightfully sent off for his moment of madness in the 50th minute. His team still managed to hold on for a goal-less draw with Les Bleus, but they surrendered the runners-up spot in Group E to Switzerland, who brushed aside Honduras 3-0.
The French, who rested key first-teamers like Patrice Evra and Mathieu Valbuena, finished atop the standings and next face Nigeria in the Round of 16 on Monday. After scoring eight goals in their first two matches, coach Didier Deschamps may be concerned that his side failed to find the net even after 17 attempts at goal against the Ecuadorians.
- Paul Pogba forced the first good save from Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, who tipped aside a looping header from the enigmatic Juventus youngster.
- Despite lacking support up front, Enner Valencia still proved to be a live-wire in the South Americans' attack. Forced to create his own openings, the nippy 25-year-old's curler from 20 metres drew a decent parry from Hugo Lloris in the French goal.
- Antonio Valencia's foolish stamp not only left its mark on Digne's leg but on the match as a whole. Without their most decorated player, Ecuador were forced to sit back and pounce on counter-attacks rather than dictate play and go for the goals they needed to overtake the Swiss.
Christian Noboa vs Blaise Matuidi/Paul Pogba
Up until the sending off, the unheralded Noboa was arguably in control of proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite sporting a comical head bandage from an early collision, the Dynamo Moscow hardman played like a beast. The 29-year-old won six out of seven tackles and tirelessly covered space between the boxes to harass the midfield tandem of Matuidi and Pogba.
Man of the Match
"How have France not scored here?" was the perfect question raised by the television commentator towards the end of the match. The answer, quite simply, lies with the 27-year-old who plays in his homeland for LDU Quito.
Dominguez's 10 saves drew the full repertoire - from simple parries to diving blocks with his feet and fingertips. It may have looked routine at times, but that was down to excellent positioning on the goal-line. Making in-form France marksman Karim Benzema look ordinary is no mean feat.
What the result means
Ecuador's third World Cup appearance will be all the more disappointing when they look back on the relatively easy group they were drawn into. Enner Valencia's energetic displays in Brazil, however, will likely earn him a lucrative move to Europe.
The French scoring machine may have been halted, but the return of the big guns for the Nigeria clash should see them firing on all cylinders once again. Deschamps' biggest decision will be whether to stick with the winning 4-3-3 setup or pair Arsenal hotshot Olivier Giroud with Benzema in a mouth-watering attack.