Group E, Match 6
Ecuador missed out on a place in the World Cup last 16 after being held to a 0-0 draw by France on Wednesday, reports Goal.com.
The fate of Reinaldo Rueda's men was always likely to be partly governed by Switzerland's result against Honduras - with their 3-0 win in Manaus helping to end Ecuador's hopes.
But an inability to take the chances they created against a much-changed France side, as well as Antonio Valencia's second-half dismissal, was ultimately the South Americans' undoing, while France too will recognise the need for improvement ahead of their last-16 clash against Nigeria.
France coach Didier Deschamps made a raft of changes, with les Bleus already virtually guaranteed top spot, as the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Lucas Digne and Antoine Griezmann all started.
It led to a disjointed performance in certain parts, but Ecuador were unable to find the goal and the win they were always likely to need.
Their chances were dealt a blow when captain Valencia was sent off for raking his studs down Digne's knee, and that allowed France to see out the game in relative comfort - continuing to rest players ahead of their next test.
France began with purpose as they pressed and harried Ecuador but they were given an early scare when Jefferson Montero got on the end of Valencia's long ball before being crowded out.
The lively Griezmann then pulled an effort wide after 10 minutes as France struggled to convert their possession into clear-cut chances.
Deschamps' six changes perhaps contributed to the French looking slightly out of sorts, although Moussa Sissoko was able to test Alexander Dominguez in Ecuador's goal with a left-footed volley.
Blaise Matuidi's careless loss of possession was not punished by Enner Valencia 20 minutes in before Bacary Sagna's delivery evaded the flapping Dominguez, as well as Karim Benzema.
If France were frustrated in possession early on, they were put under increasing pressure after the half-hour mark.
Exhibiting tidy passing and smart movement, Ecuador caused France problems without forging any goalscoring opportunities.
Paul Pogba and Valencia both had headers saved by their opposing goalkeepers late in the half but neither side could break the deadlock before the interval.
Griezmann's flick was tipped onto the inside of the post by Dominguez shortly after the break before Ecuador captain Valencia was dismissed for the second time in his last four international appearances.
Rueda was then left to rue Cristhian Noboa's wayward finishing after Valencia had robbed Pogba of possession.
However, if France were troubled by an Ecuador side with 11 men, they could afford to coast somewhat following the dismissal of Ecuador's captain - Pogba almost making life more comfortable when he went close with a header late on.
Dominguez capped off a fine performance for the South Americans with smart saves to deny Benzema and Loic Remy in the final minutes but it was not enough to stop them from heading home early.
It proved far from vintage from Deschamps' men but an unbeaten group stage still represents progress for les Blues after their shambolic exit in South Africa four years ago.
Man of the Match: A Dominguez (ECU)
Match Commentary - as it happened
As for France, they have scored more than 20 goals in the past month, but none tonight. Deschamps' side, nevertheless, go on to play Nigeria on Monday in the last 16. Hopefully then, it might be business as usual. That's it from me, good night!
Reinaldo Rueda's side were up against it as Antonio Valencia saw red five minutes into the second half. They had plenty of opportunities to test the French defence, but poor decision making, and the odd bit of profligacy meant they failed to reach the last 16.
FT: ECU 0-0 FRA - Boos ring out at the Maracana, but that was a frantic end to proceedings in Rio de Janeiro. Ecuador are going home, and it is France who progress as Group E winners. Both sides had chances, however.
90' + 4' FULL-TIME: Ecuador 0-0 France
90' + 3' All hands to the pump for Ecuador. It is full-time in Manaus, and Ecuador require two as Switzerland have just beaten Honduras 3-0 at Arena Amazonia. This World Cup has been full of drama. But even that might be a tall order.
90' + 2' GIROUD! France just cannot score. A delightful cross in from the right from Remy, and the Arsenal striker rises highest over Guagua, but his header is straight at Dominguez, who did not flinch.
90' + 1' Into the first of FOUR minutes of additional time.
90' Substitution: C. Noboa out, Felipe Caicedo in.
90' SUBSTITUTION - Ecuador: Noboa has been replaced by Felipe Caicedo.
89' POGBA! Flashes an effort wide. The midfielder darts past a couple of players before sending an effort left of Dominguez's post. The goalkeeper is down, possibly with cramp. Bizarre.
88' REMY! What a save by Dominguez! The Ecuadorian goalkeeper has been in inspired form tonight. He makes another fine stop to deny Remy, whose effort was curling into the net. Remy perhaps should've fed Giroud who was waiting in the middle, however.
86' Enner Valencia sets the pace as he gets away past Koscielny, but Moussa Sissoko does ever so well to track back and eventually, dispossess the Ecuadorian star.
85' BENZEMA! It is just not his evening. Ecuador's defence caught at the back and Giroud picks out his striking partner with a neat pass inside the area. It is all set up for Benzema, who strikes straight at Dominguez, who pulls off another magnificent stop.
83' Yellow Card F. Erazo
82' Substitution: M. Arroyo out, G. Achilier in.
82' ARROYO! What a chance for Ecuador! They continue to endure a very frustrating evening. Space opens up for the forward, who has looked quiet all evening. He attempts to strike at goal, but his effort flies horribly wide. Put off by Koscielny.
81' France have used all of their substitutes. It means that Mathieu Valbuena of Marseille will not feature in a France game for the first time under Didier Deschamps. Coincidence?
80' Remy on the ball, and he uses his pace well to get to the by-line and deliver in a dangerous low cross. The defender does well to block the attempt and Ecuador live to fight, but for how long?
79' Substitution: Antoine Griezmann out, Loïc Remy in.
78' SUBSTITUTION - France: Loic Remy is on for Antoine Griezmann.
77' BENZEMA! Another chance goes begging for the French! Benzema has a pop from just outside the area, but Dominguez makes another comfortable save. The goalkeeper has hardly put a foot wrong all evening.
75' GOALFLASH: Honduras 0-3 Switzerland - Shaqiri has got his hat-trick, the second treble of this FIFA World Cup. The Europeans look set to go through. Ecuador need a goal here, and desperately.
74' POGBA! Deschamps is flabbergasted. A delightful ball is swung towards the far post as the Juventus midfielder rises highest, but diverts the ball narrowly past the post.
72' Chance for France! Morgan Schneiderlin has a chance to really test the goalkeeper here, as he controls the ball outside the area. But the resulting shot is fired well over the bar.
70' France beginning to toil as Ecuador keep them at arm's length. Les Bleus are resorting to taking chances from quite a distance, but Moussa Sissoko is unable to test Dominguez.
68' Free-kick awarded to Ecuador after a late challenge from Digne on Ibarra. Surprised that didn't warrant a yellow card. We have, however, witnessed a red card earlier on in this second half.
67' Substitution: Blaise Matuidi out, Olivier Giroud in.
67' Giroud, with his first touch, manages to connect with the corner, before it is cleared behind for another set-piece, which in turn, fails to materialise into something serious. France have not looked particularly strong tonight.
66' SUBSTITUTION - France: Blaise Matuidi departs, he is replaced by Arsenal's Olivier Giroud. Deschamps is going for the jugular here.
65' BENZEMA! Speculative shot from outside the area, but it takes a sizeable deflection before going out for a corner, which comes to nothing. France readying another substitution.
64' SUBSTITUTION - Ecuador: First change from Rueda. Ibarra is on for Jefferson Montero.
63' Substitution: Jefferson Antonio Montero out, R. Ibarra in.
63' Ecuador have less than half an hour to save their World Cup dream. As it stands Switzerland are through, and will play Argentina in the last 16. France are set to play Nigeria.
61' Substitution: Mamadou Sakho out, Raphaël Varane in.
61' MATUIDI! Great chance for France, but he cannot test Dominguez, who makes a comfortable save. The strike was straight at him, but good move from Benzema who created the opportunity with a key pass.
60' SUBSTITUTION - FRANCE: Raphael Varane is on for Mamadou Sakho who is clutching his leg. The Liverpool centre-back has looked jittery all evening.
58' POGBA! Great block by Noboa. End-to-end now, as Digne whips in a cross from the left. Towards Benzema, who holds well before finding Pogba on the edge of the area. The Juventus midfielder tees up an effort, but it is well blocked.
57' MONTERO! Another chance goes begging for Ecuador! The winger gets the better of his marker, and cuts in to his left in an attempt to feign a shot. But he runs the ball too far, and slams an effort into the side netting. Poor decision making!
56' Will Ecuador rue that missed opportunity? Reminder that they need to win here if they are to qualify. Jefferson Montero on the ball now, and he has the space afforded to him by a French defence that is beginning to switch off.
54' NOBOA! Golden chance. Absolutely golden! And Noboa has scuffed that completely. Ecuador breeze into a 3 v 2 situation after Pogba is caught on the ball. Valencia finds Noboa arriving to his right. But he lacks the composure to hit the shot on target. In the end - NOT EVEN CLOSE!
53' Digne recovers in time to supplement the French attack. Space opens up for the Paris Saint-Germain left-back, but his cross is easily dealt with.
52' Ecuador are left in a bit of a rut here. Needing a win to progress to the last 16, they now are down to ten men after a rather controversial red card from referee Noumandiez Doue. Does Reinaldo Rueda go for it? He hasn't got much choice, admittedly.
51' RED CARD: Valencia - The Man Utd winger has been shown a straight red card after the challenge with Digne. He made contact with the ball before going over Digne's knee, but his studs were showing. And the referee has deemed that a serious foul to warrant a red card.
50' Red Card Antonio Valencia
RED CARD - Antonio Valencia (ECU).
49' Lucas Digne is in trouble here. A strong challenge from Antonio Valencia, who in fairness gets the ball before connecting with Digne's knee. And the young left-back is in a lot of pain.
48' GRIEZMANN! What a chance for France! Sagna with a delicious cross from the right. Griezmann gets ahead of his defender to connect with the faintest of touches, and Alexander Dominguez has pulled off a fantastic reactionary save, flailing at the ball before it cannons off the crossbar and hacked away.
46' The game is underway in the second half at the Estadio do Maracana. Here's hoping for a much better period.
HT: ECU 0-0 FRA: This game has failed to light the imaginations, in all truth. Ecuador need the win, given the events unfolding in Manaus - but it appears that they just don't have the ability to challenge France. Enner Valencia with the best chance, forcing a save from Lloris on the line.
45' + 2' HALF-TIME: Ecuador 0-0 France
45' We are into the first of two additional minutes at the end of the first half.
44' Referee Noumandie Doue has overseen a rather lenient first half between these two sides. Sakho jumps with Antonio Valencia, but he goes to ground, implying that a hand went in from the Manchester United winger.
42' BENZEMA! The Real Madrid star fails to shake off the persistent Minda, but he manages to curl one towards goal. Dominguez makes a rather comfortable save as we approach the end of the first half.
41' VALENCIA! Fine save from Lloris who makes a last-ditch save on the line before Sakho hacks the ball away. Lovely cross in from the wing, and Enner Valencia beats Digne in the air with a monstrous jump, but Lloris matches the effort with a great save. France are rattled.
39' Enner Valencia chasing the loose ball after a speculative ball over the defence. Another ball towards the flank, but Kosicelny is on hand to deal with the danger. Row Z, no fuss.
37' POGBA! Fine save from Dominguez! Free-kick from Griezmann on the left-hand side, and the Juventus midfielder rises highest to make a sweet connection with the ball. Dominguez has to stretch to tip that one over the bar.
35' Pogba with a searching pass towards Sissoko, who makes a darting run inside the penalty box. But Erazo is on hand to clear the danger with a good header. France, nevertheless, look to consolidate possession in the last few minutes.
33' GOALFLASH: Honduras 0-2 Switzerland. Shaqiri has doubled his money in the final 'rumble in the jungle' encounter at Arena Amazonia in Manaus. As it stands, Switzerland are going through, and Ecuador are going home.
32' Matuidi has gone to ground after a nasty challenge from Guagua, and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is certainly feeling that one. He'll be OK to continue, however.
31' Sloppy from Jefferson Montero. A perfect pass allows the attacking midfielder a clean shot at the French defence, but he opts for a pass, and a poor one at that as Enner Valencia is beaten to the loose pass by Mamadou Sakho.
29' Lengthy delay with Noboa requiring some extensive treatment. Matuidi feeling no ill-effects from that clash of heads. Noboa meanwhile, has some sort of protective gear on, as we approach the half-hour mark at the Maracana.
28' Free-kick awarded to Ecuador after Noboa is fouled by Matuidi in the penalty box. A clash of heads between both players, but Ecuador are having some trouble in clearing their lines. Noboa requires some treatment.
26' DOMINGUEZ! Almost an error from the shot-stopper! Delightful cross in from the right by Griezmann, and the goalkeeper comes - without claiming - but Benzema is unable to turn it in. Close call for Ecuador!
24' France have a number of options on the bench, with the likes of Mathieu Valbuena, Olivier Giroud, Remy Cabella and Loic Remy possessing the ability to unlock what is currently a resolute Ecuadorian defence.
23' Ecuador beginning to see more of the ball, with a neat sequence of passing moves. Towards Antonio Valencia, before Digne clears his lines. Paredes restarts the move, but Rueda's side are ploughing ahead with confidence.
21' VALENCIA! Poor finish, poor decision making. Referee Noumandiez Doue lets play go on as Pogba and Noboa tussle for a loose ball. Towards Valencia, who finds himself with an acute angle in which to shoot from. Does so, and it fails to test Lloris.
20' Chance for Ecuador? Space opens up for the South American side after Matuidi cheaply gives away possession. He is punished as Antonio Valencia drives at the defence, towards Enner Valencia. But Hugo Lloris is on hand to make a quick save at the feet of the forward.
18' The spotlight is firmly on Karim Benzema and his opposite number Enner Valencia after scorching starts in Brazil. Both are on hot scoring streaks. Benzema has six in his last four, with Valencia finding the net seven times in his last six games.
16' Enner Valencia, who has three goals at this World Cup so far, is moving a little gingerly. He has gone off for a spot of treatment from the medical team. The South Americans are down to ten men currently.
15' SISSOKO! Great chance Matuidi's dangerous ball into the box is only half cleared by the defender. Towards Sissoko who arrives on the far side of the penalty box, he catches the ball well with a hooked volley. But it is a comfortable save for the goalkeeper.
14' France enjoying the early spoils at the Maracana as Pogba dinks in a little chip for Sissoko, who is unable to control the ball, before it goes out for a goal-kick. They lead the possession count 61% to Ecuador's 39%.
12' TV replays showing Mamadou Sakho with an elbow on an Ecuadorean player, something that has obviously not been picked up by the referee. Lucky for Sakho, who has looked a little jittery in these opening stages.
11' GRIEZMANN! Wide of Dominguez's goal. Has the opportunity to strike early after poor defending from the South Americans. Takes a shot with his right foot, low on the ground - but it flies inches wide of Dominguez's left post.
10' GOALFLASH: Honduras 0-1 Switzerland - Xherdan Shaqiri has opened the scoring for Ottmar Hitzfield's side. As it stands, Switzerland would qualify with six points. For Ecuador, they would need a win here to qualify.
8' Griezmann with a corner, but his swinging effort is well dealt with. France momentarily caught under pressure as Enner Valencia chases a loose ball forward, but he is unable to get past his marker.
6' It is only seven and a half months since Didier Deschamps and his side were severely derided after their World Cup play-off defeat to Ukraine. Tonight, they could join Netherlands, Argentina and Colombia in the last 16 with a perfect record.
5' Ayovi harrassed by Sagna, and the pressure works in the French's favour as Noboa poorly heads the ball into the path of Moussa Sissoko, who has the space to drive his side forward. After a short passing move, Sissoko is unable to keep the ball in.
3' Digne, who makes his first international start - as well as Morgan Schneiderlin - enjoying a decent start down this left, as he gets the better of Paredes. Towards the centre, but France cannot engineer a serious opportunity.
2' Early pressure from the French. Digne drills in a cross down the left, but Ecuador do not clear the ball well. Scheniderlin just outside the penalty box finds Digne once more, but Guagua is on hand to see the ball behind for a goal-kick.
1' The game is underway at the Maracana.
Tonight's referee is from the Ivory Coast - Noumandiez Doue. He has already taken charge of one other game at this World Cup, overseeing Chile's 3-1 win over Australia at Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba.
PERMUTATIONS: For Switzerland to qualify, they need to better Ecuador's result. Should both teams win, Switzerland need to win by more than two goals to qualify ahead of Ecuador. All four teams have something to play for tonight in a group which has seen more goals than any other in this World Cup.
PERMUTATIONS: France need a point to qualify as winners. Only a huge defeat for them to Ecuador, and a considerable win for Switzerland tonight against Honduras would see them finish third. For Ecuador to qualify, they just need to better Switzerland's result.
France have scored three or more goals in consecutive matches for the first time since 1998. Of course, that year, they went on to win the whole tournament. Omens!
TEAM NEWS: Ecuadorean star Enner Valencia starts up front for Rueda's side, hoping to add to his three goals so far in Brazil. France meanwhile make six changes, with Didier Deschamps resting Mathieu Valbuena. Raphael Varane is not fit, and Laurent Koscielny, Lucas Digne and Moussa Sissoko come in. Deschamps hands a first international start to Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin in place of the suspended Yohan Cabaye.
ECUADOR: Dominguez, Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, W.Ayoví; Noboa, Minda; A.Valencia, Arroyo, Montero; E.Valencia
FRANCE: Lloris; Sagna; Koscielny, Sakho, Digne; Pogba, Matuidi, Schneiderlin; Sissoko, Benzema, Griezmann.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS:
France and Ecuador have met before on one other occasion in an international friendly in 2008. Les Bleus won 2-0 on that occasion, with Lyon forward Bafetimbi Gomis notching a rare double.
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda will be hoping for further progress from his side, after a positive showing against Honduras in their previous fixture - one which inadvertently turned out to be one of the most attacking encounters of this entire World Cup!
Saying that however, it would take a monumental collapse from France to not qualify at all. They lead the group with six points, with tonight's opponents Ecuador with three - but with the added bonus of a 6 goal difference to Ecuador's 0.
The French require just one point to be absolutely sure of qualifying from Group E as winners. Should they achieve that, they will face Nigeria on Monday in the last 16 at Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha. Failure to do so, and they might end up playing Group F winners Argentina, who secured their status with a 3-2 win over the African champions earlier today.
France have impressed in the World Cup, winning two games out of two - and in convincing fashion. Led by former World Cup winning captain Didier Deschamps, les Bleus have dismantled Honduras 3-0, and Switzerland 5-2.
Commenatry & Report: Goal dot com