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Jun 25, 2014

France finish top as Ecuador exit

EcuadorEcuador
FranceFrance
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Match 42
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2014 FIFA World Cup Group E: Ecuador 0-0 France

France secured top spot in Group E and a last 16 showdown with Nigeria as Ecuador's Antonio Valencia saw red for a two-footed lunge in the Maracana.

- Marcotti: Deschamps manages French expectations
- Delaney: Improvement needed for France

Manchester United midfielder Valencia, also sent off for tangling with Raheem Sterling in the friendly against England in Miami earlier this month, went over the top of the ball on Lucas Digne, leaving the referee in no doubt.

Ecuador fought on with 10 men to the end but, needing to win by two goals as a result of Switzerland's easy win over Honduras, had only pride as their reward for the 0-0 draw.

The game may have developed differently had the match officials spotted Mamadou Sakho's nasty elbow on Oswaldo Minda early on in the game.

Had Ivory Coast referee Noumandiez Doue seen the incident there is little doubt that Sakho would have been off, and it may be that he faces retrospective action from FIFA.

This was a tightly-fought affair from the start, with France shading the first half and Ecuador content to play on the break.

There were a series of half-chances for France -- Antoine Griezmann was a yard wide with a low strike, then Moussa Sissoko had a swing with a left-footed volley which was too easy for Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

The best chance came when Digne, Paris Saint-Germain's impressive 20-year-old left-back who was also making his World Cup debut, won a free kick. Griezmann floated it over for Paul Pogba to thump a header goalwards but Dominguez was able to tip it over.

After Ecuador's Christian Noboa was forced to don a hair-net to cover up a bloody wound incurred from a clash of heads with Blaise Matuidi, the South Americans began to improve.

Michael Arroyo made a surging run and Enner Valencia was waiting to pounce but the midfielder tried to cross with the outside of his foot and it was too close to Hugo Lloris.

Enner Valencia, easily Ecuador's player of the tournament, did win a good header but once again Lloris was equal to it.

Dominguez then denied Griezmann but he knew little about it. Sagna's cross was met by Griezmann's powerful header which bobbled off the keeper's hands and on to the post before being cleared.

Then came Valencia's lunge on Digne, raking his studs down the full-back's leg and had it not been for a shinpad the outcome could have been much worse. France coach Didier Deschamps looked concerned on the touchline but after treatment Digne was able to continue.

Ecuador nearly caught France napping with a terrific break by Enner Valencia and Noboa should have scored but his first touch was horrendous and he sliced his shot well wide.

Matuidi was next to threaten after a nice touch from Karim Benzema but Dominguez saved well again, before Pogba was horribly wasteful from a free header at the far post.

Benzema failed to trouble Dominguez from 20 yards, then after a quick break Michael Arroyo shot wildly wide for Ecuador.

Ecuador continued to threaten on the counter-attack, and Alex Ibarra had a powerful strike beaten away by Lloris, then there were more heroics from man-of-the-match Dominguez to keep out Benzema, Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud.

It may have been a comedown for France after their high-scoring exploits against Switzerland and Honduras but Deschamps will not complain -- Les Bleus are unbeaten and marching into the last 16.

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