France wins group after playing to scoreless draw with Ecuador
FIFA World Cup 2014: France vs. Ecuador preview, live commentary and recap.
It was never a certainty that Ecuador was going to get points out of this game; but it was certainly expected that one side would at least score.
France and Ecuador played to a scoreless draw Wednesday, which sent the French through as winners of Group E and Ecuador home.
Switzerland, who tallied six points in the group after victory over Honduras, is also through.
The French had a pile of chances, especially after Antonio Valencia was sent off for a reckless challenge. Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema dominated the midfield, but none of their tries found paydirt.
It was surprising, given the way France has scored at will throughout the tournament. Ecuador managed a few chances, as well, but the French defense was too strong.
France will face Nigeria in each team's first game of the knockout stage.
FINAL: France 0 - Ecuador 0
90'+ -- Ecuador has had the ball in the France zone for an eternity, but they've failed to put one on goal.
90'+ -- Pretty insane at this point. Free header for Giroud right to Dominguez.
89' -- Good news: Paul Pogba didn't kick it a million feet over the crossbar. Bad news: His shot was wide.
88' -- Ecuador needs two goals. Fast.
87' -- Great, curving try from Remy is stopped by a diving, fully-extended Dominguez. He has been wonderful for Ecuador.
86' -- Ecuador a decent chance on a free kick, but it was a disaster. Played short, then lost.
84' -- Another great chance for Benzema, but his strike is stuffed by Dominguez. Good shot, better save.
82' -- Ohhhhh nooo. Ecuador's best chance comes from Ibarro, who makes some nifty moves to get free and a decent shot off, but it's blocked.
81' -- Arroyo with a decent try, but as has occurred so many times today, the shot sails harmlessly wide. And high.
79' -- Benzema with a try, again. Not on target, again.
73' -- Paul Pogba just whiffed on perhaps the easiest header in the history of soccer. (Arguably.)
69' -- Free kick wasted by Ecuador as its mashed north of the crossbar. France's defense has not been pressured much of late.
65' -- Benzema and France just keep knocking at the door. Still haven't found the net. Ecuador hanging in there.
64' -- Jefferson Montero off for Ecuador. He just could not get anything going.
62' -- Couple more chances for France to no avail. This one is being dominated of late by the French side.
58' -- Pogba and Benzema nearly put this one on ice, but both players get their shots blocked. Ecuador has to be running out of steam.
57' -- Another good chance for Ecuador, but Jefferson Montero gets himself all twisted up in the box and the ball rolls out for a goal kick.
54' -- Enner Valencia leads a break and drops a ball off to Noboa who just makes an absolute mess of it. Great chance wasted.
50' -- Well this doesn't help Ecuador. Antonio Valencia goes in studs up on a tackle and is given a red card. They'll now have to push a goal across and hold France with just 10 men.
47' -- Wow. HUGE save by Dominguez, and it was almost by accident. A deflected cross by Griezmann basically ran into him. Right place, right time.
46' -- Back at it. Ecuador, again, needs a goal.
Halftime: It has been a physical half, to say the least. Lots of colliding and flying elbows, but no goals and few chances. Ecuador needs to win, and even then they'll need the Swiss to stop scoring.
44' -- Benzema has a go, but an easy save for Dominguez.
41' -- Enner Valencia skies for a spectacular header, but France keeper Hugo Lloris turns him away.
38' -- Pogba gets a header on goal but Dominguez is able to tip it over the crossbar for a corner.
33' -- Also everyone is injured in this game. Long ball, collision, two players down. Over and over.
32' -- (Bad news for Ecuador -- Switzerland is scoring at will. Now up 2-0 over Honduras. Ecuador has a ton of work to do.)
30' -- Bit of a delay, as Matuidi and Noboa knock heads in the air. Nobua's head is bleeding kind of a lot, but he's back on.
27' -- Great service nearly redirected in by Benzema, but he just misses getting his head to the ball. Had a wide open net.
22' -- Enner Valencia gets his chance over the top, but he can't get a foot on it until it's too late.
20' -- Action has been choppy, at best. Ecuador struggling to get possession, while France having trouble controlling the ball. Just as I say that Montero almost gets free in front of the net, but he can't quite get to the ball.
16' -- Good volley on goal for Sissoko is easily gathered by Dominguez.
13' -- Pretty sloppy both ways. France has dominated possession but have been unable to get a decent look at goal.
8' -- Good work from Ecuador wasted. Wonderful long ball from Antonio Valencia to Jefferson Montero, but Montero fumbles it away for a goal kick.
5' -- Couple decent looks early for France, but Pogba and Matuidi have some rough touches to start. No shots from either side.
1' -- And we're underway.
4 p.m. ET: Quick recap: France needs to not lose by a bunch of goals, and they're through; Ecuador is tied in points with Switzerland, who is playing Honduras as we speak. Ecuador leads in goal differential, but you have to think the Swiss at least tie Honduras.
In sum, Ecuador needs a win.
3:50 p.m. ET: Didier Deschamps has mixed up the France lineup for Wednesday's match with Ecuador. He is starting almost a completely different defensive backfield, and he is resting Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena in the middle.
Ecuador, who is probably facing a must-win, is mostly the same.
France: Hugo Lloris; Lucas Digne, Mamadou Sakho, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna; Blaise Matuidi, Morgan Schneiderlin, Paul Pogba; Moussa Sissoko, Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann
Ecuador: Alecander Domínguez; Walter Ayoví, Frickson Erazo, Jorge Guagua, Juan Carlos Paredes; Jefferson Montero, Christian Noboa, Oswaldo Minda, Antonio Valencia; Felipe Caicedo, Enner Valencia
France vs. Ecuador (Group E) | Kickoff: 6/25, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Maracana
Match Preview: The good news for Ecuador is that they hold a two goal lead over Switzerland. The bad news is that Ecuador is playing a dominant France side and Switzerland is facing a hapless Honduras squad.
In order to make it through to the knockout stage, France needs a win or draw or to not lose by like five goals. Those odds are pretty good, seeing as France has been a mostly dominant side behind Karim Benzema in the midfield.
Benzema has been more than an able replacement for Franck Ribery, who was kept off the team due to an injury. Olivier Giroud has, too, been an issue for opposing sides, and they'll both likely cause trouble for Ecuador.
The man for Ecuador is Enner Valencia, and he's been spectacular in the team's first two matches. He may find tougher sledding against the French, but he'll be Ecuador's best chance at pushing across a goal.
Still, for France, a draw or one (or even two)-goal loss will result in their winning Group E. Not a lot of pressure thanks to the work they've done in their first two matches.
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