World Cup 2014: France v Ecuador– Preview
Many thought that the Swiss would put up the sternest test for the French in Group E. After 90 minutes that notion was well and truly blasted out of the water, and arguably the victory was actually achieved after the quickfire double before the 20-minute mark. Coach Didier Deschamps showed both tactical nous and the strength of the French squad by resting both Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, and their replacements, Moussa Sissoko and Olivier Giroud, repaid Deschamps with standout performances of energy, determination and above all else, goals.
There were exciting performances from all over the pitch with Giroud combining superbly with Mathieu Valbuena (in another fine outing for les Bleus) and Karim Benzema with all three getting on the score sheet. Sissoko demonstrated that the French do not need to put such pressure on the young shoulders of Paul Pogba with fellow midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye offering pace, power and responsibility (Cabaye’ yellow card aside!).
The French of course will be aware of the problems complacency can bring with the two late Swiss goals giving them a small, but perhaps important, reality check that you cannot afford to switch off at all during this World Cup.
With Cabaye suspended for this match, it is expected that Pogba will return to the starting XI in his place, partnering Sissoko and Matuidi in the midfield.
It is in the centre of defence where France may have slight concerns ahead of the game with Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny all missing a recent training session. Sakho looks the most likely to miss out after picking up a knock during the Switzerland game, but Varane has been suffering with a slight stomach illness, so it might fall on Koscielny and Eliaquim Mangala to deputise in defence.
With consistency and confidence such an important factor in a tournament like this, Deschamps may look to err on the side of caution and resist a large number of wholesale changes.
Ecuador could actually prove to be les Bleus biggest test in the group stages. Despite France sweeping both Honduras and Switzerland aside, the South Americans will be fighting for their lives as a win should see them progress, unless the Swiss secure a big victory over Honduras. La Tri were desperately unlucky to concede an injury time winner in their first outing against the Swiss, and they demonstrated their potential in the follow up 2-1 win over Honduras.
Forward Enner Valencia has been far and away their standout player so far, scoring all three of the team’s goals including a match-winning double against Honduras. The winger-cum-striker is in great form so far with seven goals in his last six matches, so will be the player France certainly need to keep their eye on.
As above, France will need to be wary of relaxing too much. They certainly didn’t seem as strong or confident at the back once Koscielny had replaced Sakho in the Switzerland game.
Against the Swiss France excelled with their fast, direct, counter-attack play. With Ecuador needing to match Switzerland’s result in their final game, les Bleus could once again look to put this to good use against a team that will be looking to score.
All in all, France should be looking to secure maximum points here to top the group and set up a potential round of 16 match, likely against either Nigeria or Iran.
France 3 Ecuador 1