Ecuador vs. France: Giroud headlines changes in French lineup

June 25, 3:37 PM

Olivier Giroud is on the bench for France's meeting with Ecuador on Wednesday, the biggest of their lineup changes in a fairly meaningless contest for the Group E leaders.

Antoine Griezmann replaces Giroud and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin checks in for the first time in the tournament. Lucas Digne, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny all start, while Paul Pogba replaces the suspended Yohan Cabaye.

Ecuador made one change to its starting lineup, replacing Felipe Caicedo with Michael Arroyo up front.

Ecuador (4-4-2)

Dominguez; Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayovi; A. Valencia, Minda, Noboa, Montero; Arroyo, E. Valencia.

France (4-3-3)

Lloris; Sagna, Koscielny, Sakho, Digne; Pogba, Schneiderlin, Matuidi; Griezmann, Benzema, Sissoko.

Feature photo courtesy of Action Images/Paul Childs

June 25, 6:38 PM

Ecuador 0, France 0: Ecuador eliminated after stalemate at the Maracana

June 25, 6:38 PM

France ended Ecuador’s hopes of advancing to the knockout round with a tidy, but wasteful performance at the Maracana in Rio.

Les Blues had a number of chances to break this game open but poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping from Alexander and bad luck conspired against them. 

In any case, France tops Group E with seven points and will face Nigeria on Monday. Ecuador, unfortunately, is the lone South America team that failed to advance to the knockout round. 

The Head Shots 

France was the dominant offensive team in this match, but rough play marred their performance.

Mamadou Sakho is likely facing disciplinary action for a brutal elbow on Oswaldo Minda in the first half that went undetected.

Not to be outdone, Blaise Matuidi left Christian Noboa bloodied and bruised. Noboa was forced to don a gauze skull cup for the remainder of the match, reminding us of Usher’s mesh doo-rag phase in the early 90s.

Man of the Match - Alexander Dominguez

France unleashed a barrage of shots at the Ecuadorian goal throughout the game only to be denied by the 27-year-old.

Les Blues registered nine shots on goal, many of them clear cut goal scoring opportunities. Ecuador may be going home, but Alexander can hold his head high. He was terrific.

The Controversy

Antonio Valencia’s red card all but ended Ecuador’s chances of getting a result. The Manchester United winger was unlucky, if not rash. 

Valencia appeared to get to the ball before 20-year-old French defender Lucas Digne, but the foot of Ecuador’s captain slipped off the ball and from there, the damage had just begun. 

Intent doesn’t matter in the eyes of the referee. It never does. Valencia’s cleats dug into Digne’s leg and the replays made it look even worse. Valencia’s sending off was signaled the end of Ecuador’s World Cup campaign just five minutes into the second half.

The Takeaway

Ecuador's chances were doomed when they allowed Switzerland to steal three points late in the opening fixture of Group G. A win over Honduras and a tie against France would have seemed a success heading into the tournament. However, Haris Seferović's goal in the third minute of stoppage time in Brasilia created a wound that wouldn't heal for La Tri.

France, meanwhile, will rue the missed chances. But overall their three group stage games couldn't have gone better. Entering the tournament they were considered a dark horse. Now, they're one of the favorites, along with Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands and Germany. A tricky date with Nigeria awaits, though that's a game they should win. 

The 1,000 Words

Stray Thoughts

Raphaël Varane’s upset stomach gave Laurent Koscielny the opportunity to start beside Mamadou Sakho and the Arsenal centre back didn’t disappoint. Koscielny was composed when called upon, which was often before Antonio Valencia’s red card reduced Ecuador to 10 men. Sakho was forced to leave the game at the hour mark after aggravating a hamstring injury that flared up against Switzerland. Koscielny could find himself back in the starting lineup against Nigeria as a result.

Enner Valencia picked up an injury early on and wasn't the same player that had registered three goals through two games heading into the match. Nonetheless, he was Ecuador's standout player in Brazil and is bound to receive offers for his services from some of the bigger clubs in the world. 

Before the World Cup, French coach Didier Deschamps gave his players two books. Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography and Phil Jackson's '11 Rings.' 

Mathieu Valbuena had appeared in every game for France since Deschamps took over the reins as national team head coach. That streak ended today. 

Feature photo courtesy of Action Images/Carl Recine

June 25, 5:58 PM

FINAL - Ecuador 0, France 0: 10-man Ecuador eliminated as France clinch Group E

June 25, 5:58 PM

Ecuador held their own against France despite playing with 10 men for the final 40 mintues of the match on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough to advance from Group E after Switzerland defeated Honduras.

France, who only needed a draw to clinch top spot in the group and avoid a round of 16 meeting with Argentina, controlled play for most of the match. They pummeled the Ecuadorian net with shots following captain Antonio Valencia's red card in the 50th minute, but goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez stood tall, making nine saves.

Ecuador was able to generate chances on the counter-attack while shorthanded and a formation change late in the match produced their best opportunity of the second half, but the 64-21 deficit in dangerous attacks highlights how outplayed they were.

The match featured its fair share of rough play, including a pair of elbows by France players, a collision that left Ecuador midfielder Christian Noboa bleeding from the head and the challenge that earned Valencia a red card.

Ecuador is the only one of six South American teams to be eliminated in the group stage. France will face Nigeria in the round of 16.

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Sergio Moraes

June 25, 5:16 PM

LIVE - Ecuador 0, France 0: Antonio Valencia sent off for challenge on Digne (GIF)

June 25, 5:16 PM

Ecuador will need to beat France with only 10 men after captain Antonio Valencia was sent off in the 50th minute for a challenge on Lucas Digne.

Valencia appeared to run his cleats over the ball and onto Digne's outstretched leg, apparently causing the French defender considerable discomfort. It was enough for referee Noumandiez Doue to reach into his back pocket and produce a red card.

France was controlling most of the play while Ecuador had all 11 men on the pitch, so losing a man could prove fatal for the one South American squad not assured a spot in the knockout stage.

Valencia was also sent off in a friendly match against England earlier in June.

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

June 25, 4:57 PM

LIVE - Ecuador 0, France 0: France in driver's seat at half

June 25, 4:57 PM

Ecuador will need to dig deep to wrestle control away from France in the second half if they hope to advance to the knockout stage.

France generated 27 dangerous attacks to nine for Ecuador, who are facing elimination with Switzerland holding a comfortable lead against Honduras. France also controlled 56 percent of possession and enjoyed an advantage in most offensive categories, including a 13-3 difference in crosses.

The relatively sluggish and physical first half was a change of pace from the exciting run-and-gun style France played while scoring eight times in their opening two matches, but the French will clinch top spot in Group E with a draw, so their lack of urgency can be forgiven.

Ecuador was unable to generate any chances of note until Enner Valencia’s header in the 41st minute, which Hugo Lloris handled without much difficulty. Ecuador's other two shots on target were blocked before they could reach the French goalkeeper.

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Sergio Moraes

June 25, 4:37 PM

LIVE - Ecuador 0, France 0: Noboa playing with bloodied head after collision (GIF)

June 25, 4:37 PM

Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa took the worst of a head-to-head collision with France's Blaise Matuidi in Ecuador's penalty area.

[Courtesy: CBC]

Noboa, who was bleeding from the head following the collision, was patched up with a gauze cap and allowed to return to play almost immediately.

Who says soccer players aren't tough?

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

June 25, 4:15 PM

LIVE - Ecuador 0, France 0: Early goal by Switzerland puts Ecuador on edge

June 25, 4:15 PM

Ecuador have no control on the other Group E match between Switzerland and Honduras, but an early goal by the Swiss could decide their fate if they are unable to earn three points against France.

As it stands, Switzerland would advance in second place with a victory over Honduras, while a draw would leave Ecuador two points behind in third.

Ecuador has yet to generate a shot towards the French goal in the opening 15 minutes of the match - a worrying sign if this remains a must-win for them.

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Sergio Moraes

June 25, 2:23 PM

Ecuador vs. France: Preview

June 25, 2:23 PM

Ecuador and France will meet in their final Group E match Wednesday with far more on the line for the South Americans. 

Ecuador sits second in the group with three points, holding the edge on three-point Switzerland by virtue of a better goal differential. To advance to the knockout stage, Ecuador must match or better Switzerland's result versus Honduras. 

France are a virtual lock to finish at the top of the group regardless of the outcome of this match. Les Bleus sit three points clear of Ecuador and Switzerland and are +6 in goal differential - six goals better than any other team in the group. A loss by anything less than six goals will be good enough to send the French to the next round as a top seed. 

The Details

Teams: Ecuador vs. France

Time: 4:00 PM EST

Venue: Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro

Television: ESPN (U.S. - English), Univision (U.S. - Spanish), CBC (Canada)

Injury Report and Suspensions

France will be without midfielder Yohan Cabaye because he is under suspension after receiving two yellow cards in two matches. Defender Mamadou Sakho could also watch the game in street clothes, as he has a thigh injury and France manager Didier Deschamps could decide to let him rest.

Ecuador have no injuries or suspensions to deal with in this match. They'll be at full strength. 

Historic Head-To-Head

These two sides have met just once previously, with France topping Ecuador 2-0 in a 2008 friendly. 

3 Things To Watch

Enner Valencia's hot streak

With three goals in his first two matches, Ecuador forward Enner Valencia is in the running for the Golden Boot. He'll need Ecuador to advance to the knockout stage to have any hope of winning the prize, but there's no better way to make that happen than by scoring another goal or two today. 

Will France play to win?

France steamrolled Honduras 3-0 and Switzerland 5-2 in their first two matches. Only needing to avoid a gigantic loss today, will we see Deschamps' side take their foot off the pedal? Doing so could be dangerous, as France could lose its offensive momentum heading into the do-or-die stage of the tournament. 

Great expectations

Les Bleus' dominance in their first two matches created a great deal of optimism back home. Suddenly, the French look like a top contender to leave Brazil as champions, rather than the dark horse they were before the tournament began. 

Deschamps doesn't sound thrilled about everyone jumping on the bandwagon, and he has tried to temper expectations slightly. A loss to Ecuador might do France some good, since it could apply the brakes to what's becoming a runaway bandwagon. 

Feature photo courtesy of Action Images/John Sibley