The FourFourTwo Preview: Ecuador vs France
Blundering defenders versus attacking brilliance.
France are home and dry: it would take a hefty beating at the hands of second-placed Ecuador, or a massive Switzerland win (third on goal difference) against grumpy Honduras for them to finish as group runners-up.
This presents something of a dilemma for Didier Deschamps: maintain momentum and go for their third consecutive victory? Or rest key players with the view that a weakened team should be enough to defeat one of the more generous back-lines of Brazil 2014?
So far, Ecuador have approached their games with a haphazard attitude to defensive duties, as evidenced during their 2-1 victory over Honduras - one of the most entertaining so far due to the aggressive tackling on display.
It was within this fixture that they displayed their two most effective forms of attack, however. On the counter, they twin speed with positivity in two swift wingers, Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero; 66% of their goals so far (that's, er, two) have come from set pieces, with striker Felipe Caicedo looking strong in the air.
They need to equal or better Switzerland's result against Honduras to qualify, though the Swiss are highly fancied to win. In short: it will take a good day from the South Americans and a bad one from France for Ecuador to qualify.
What the local media say
"'This could have been more than perfect,' Didier Deschamps, the French coach, told the cameras after the game. He suggested he was not happy that his team had conceded two late goals. 'We were up against a good team and to score five goals and win 5-2, it was a very good evening. Six points after two matches is ideal. We have to wait for the next match but we have a good goal difference and the next match will decide first and second place.'" - France 24.
"Meanwhile, the captain of the Ecuadorian team, Antonio Valencia, has warned of the danger that France pose and stated that any team that has technical (manager) Deschamps is dangerous. 'France can harm you with three choices in one day. It will change your way of playing and thinking. We have to be very focused,' said the Manchester United player. 'We hope to all reach the game in good shape for tomorrow.'" - El Tiempo.
Key battle: Frickson Erazo vs Olivier Giroud
Against Switzerland, the striker showed the sort of form that Arsenal fans had been hoping to see more of last season - a display of aggression and smarts; Giroud scored one and set up another in the 5-2 rout. "Olivier was extraordinary," says Karim Benzema. "He scored and created a lot." He even managed to hospitalise Steve von Bergen having accidentally booted the defender in the face.
"Big Mistake": that's Erazo's nickname (<<"Erraço">>) among the fans of his home club Flamengo, though his defensive partner Jorge Guagua is hardly a rock of reliability. Against these two, France could prosper.
Facts and figures
- France haven’t lost any of their last 6 games against South American teams at World Cup (W3 D3).
- Ecuador have managed 8 shots on target at the 2014 World Cup so far and Enner Valencia has attempted half of these (4). He’s attempted 6 shots at goal, no other Ecuador player has managed more than 3.
- This will be the second ever meeting between these sides.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
The French to win at a canter. 3-1.