With two wins out of two, France’s World Cup campaign is off to a fantastic start. Admittedly, most in France did expect their national side to win both of their opening games, and indeed will expect the same result against Ecuador, but it is the manner of these victories which has pleased Didier Deschamps and fans alike.
With eight goals in two games, France have contained the stand-out attacking force in the tournament thus far. The performances of Karim Benzema, once the target of French media for his dreadful international performances, have been a pleasant surprise. The likes of Blaise Matuidi, who has been so good for PSG over these last two years, have also been critical in turning defence into attack and bringing the ball forward on the break.
Arguably, Ecuador are likely to provide a tougher test that both Honduras and Switzerland. With Switzerland likely to beat Honduras in the other group game, Ecuador will need to win in order to guarantee a place in the next round. Thus this game is likely mean more to Ecuador than it did for Switzerland and Honduras as it is a must win game in order to progress.
France could field a so called ‘second team’ as well, which will lead to Ecuador feeling that they have a strong chance. In reality, Ecuador are likely to cause any French team a few issues; striker Enner Valencia has received many plaudits throughout the competition already and supposedly already has a host of top clubs interested in him. The player’s three goals show that he can be a real threat and France will need to be at the top of their game in order to track his mazy runs in behind and deal with his pace.
The pace of Antonio Valencia and Christian Noboa down the flanks means that Ecuador attack with great pace and look to drill balls into the box for their strikers. Thus, Ecuador are limited going forward through the centre, but could cause problems for the French full-backs, who are notoriously weak, in particular on the right hand side of defence.
Going forward, therefore, Ecuador have the ability to cause difficulties for Les Bleus, but it is Ecuador’s defence which France will be able to exploit. Lapses of concentration meant that the South American side lost, perhaps undeservedly, against Switzerland in the opening round and this is indeed something which could come back to haunt them. In their last outing against Honduras, Ecuador allowed their opponents to get seventeen shots off, although only five were on target, and if they allow the French to shoot so freely, they are likely to be more heavily punished.
Ecuador represent a threat, not only due to their attacking options, but also because they are used to playing in such a climate, being from South America, and although France have had two games in which they have seamlessly adjusted, the South American side will have the upper hand in this department.
Overall, despite the fact that Ecuador need a win, France are expected to win, and if they play as well as in the first two games, they could score quite a few against a weak defence. However, France’s defence will be tested more than previously, and although this game does not matter for Les Bleus, Deschamps will be looking for a good win in order to take the momentum into the knock-out stages of the competition.