By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – France finished top of World Cup Group E after a 0-0 draw with Ecuador yesterday (June 25th) afternoon at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. The goalless stalemate meant the end of the road for Ecuador however, the only South American side to exit the competition at the group stage after Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay made it safely through to the final sixteen.
Having already qualified after winning their first two group games, France put out a mixed team. The outcome was perhaps predictable, as unfamiliar players struggled to find cohesion and rhythm against an Ecuadorian outfit battling to find the back of the net.
Ecuador’s tough task was made doubly difficult after the interval. Three minutes into the second half right winger Antonio Valencia was shown a straight red card for a studs up challenge on French left-back Lucas Digne, reducing the team to ten men.
With one less man on the pitch and a goal to chase, France were subsequently gifted several opportunities to pick off their opponents. Karim Benzema was the main threat for the Europeans but wasted several good chances to take all three points.
France’s domination was proven by their superior ball possession – sixty percent to Ecuador’s forty. By the end the South Americans were desperately chasing a lost cause. Moussa Sissoko and Olivier Giroud also had the chance to score for France but Alexander Dominguez, in the Ecuador goal, was equal to their efforts.
Enner Valencia meanwhile was the principal Ecuadorian attacking outlet, supported by Ayorro whose inability to find the right pass was a huge hindrance to the likelihood of their progress. At the end Paul Pogba missed the most glaring chance of the game, somehow contriving to head wide with the goal at his mercy from just a few yards out. Ecuador pushed forward for one final surge but Ibarra saw his effort saved by Hugo Lloris.
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