Ecuador vs France World Cup 2014 match report: Antonia Valencia sees red as Ecuador’s best efforts are all in vain

Ecuador 0 France 0

France escape with a draw, and draw breath. For the first time in this World Cup, they looked to have come up against a wall. Ecuador came rather close to turning Didier Deschamps’s team over, and potentially toppling them from first place.

As it was, the French claimed top spot and a last-16 tie against Nigeria, but not without looking some way below their best.

France did not start the game like they were happy for a sedate draw to leave them top. They clearly wanted to maintain the momentum of their opening two matches, and picked up where they left off against Switzerland: by driving at an opposition defence at pace.

There was a flurry of activity around the Ecuador box in the opening stages but, on this occasion, France could not initially find the same precision as in previous games.

It took them 10 minutes to force a save from the goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, as Antoine Griezmann finally unleashed an effort. The closest they came thereafter was a somewhat clumsily executed Paul Pogba header, and a Karim Benzema long-range shot.

France were all speed but not quite doing anything specific. It was as if they hoped the sheer pace of their play would be enough to unsettle Ecuador.

Yet, with Deschamps having rested Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Valbuena from the side that won 5-2 against Switzerland last Friday, their midfield lacked a little finesse and control.

 

Their defence certainly looked like it could be pulled wildly off course any time Enner Valencia ran at them. Without proper protection, they badly struggled with his direct drives.

It is the one big question about this French team and their chances of actually winning this World Cup, despite the very obvious progress they have made. So far, they have not really been put under pressure, and there is a slight feeling both of the first two games went their way.

Ecuador attempted to change that, with the South American side’s own urgency increased by the news that Switzerland had gone ahead early on against Honduras in Manaus.

Reinaldo Rueda’s team had to match the Swiss scoreline to go through. Here, the France  defenders occasionally struggled to match their energy, and Enner Valencia could well have made it 1-0 with a leaping header that brought an excellent reaction save from Hugo Lloris.

France at least responded as their manager might have expected. Within seconds of the re-start, Bacary Sagna had seared down the right wing and exquisitely curled the ball around for Griezmann. The Real Socieded forward did well to get such a firm touch but goalkeeper Rodriguez did even better to turn the ball onto the post.

Video: France and Ecuador fans in Rio de Janeiro

It was an elevation in quality, in all ways. It also elevated emotions. That all got a bit too much for Antonio Valencia. On 50 minutes, he recklessly lifted his studs in a race for the ball with Lucas Digne and was immediately sent off.

The loss of a player did not lead to a reduction in Ecuador’s tempo. Instead, they should really have been a goal up. Christian Noboa was presented with a chance from yet another driving break but, displaying the hesitation the rest of the team were not, the midfielder delayed his shot before sending it wide.

It said much that Deschamps replaced Mamadou Sakho with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, who was at least better able to deal with that Ecuadorian pace. The French manager was also sufficiently concerned about eventually needing a goal to bring on Olivier Giroud for Blaise Matuidi, although the midfielder had been unfortunate not to score moments beforehand. In what was the best move of the match, he exchanged passes with Benzema but could not beat Dominguez with a powerful drive.

The finale then effectively turned into an invigorating rally of runs and long-rang shots, reflecting the closeness of the table but also how open it was to change.

As it was, it did change, but not in the manner Ecuador would have wanted. Switzerland scored again and cemented second place. Ecuador become the first South American side eliminated from this World Cup.

France suddenly look a little less likely to actually go and win it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world