Ecuador vs. France
2014 FIFA World Cup
June 25 | 4 pm ET | Estadio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
TV: ESPN, Univision in US, CBC in Canada
After cruising to two easy wins to open the tournament, France will look to continue their perfect start to the World Cup – although Les Bleus need only a draw in their final group-stage match to absolutely secure the top spot in Group E.
GROWING EXPECATIONS: France wasn’t necessarily seen as a World Cup favorite coming into the tournament, especially when star winger Franck Ribery was ruled out with an injury. But through two games, Les Blues have certainly looked like one of the best teams in Brazil, having poured in eight goals en route to commanding victories over Honduras and Switzerland.
For France, the issue has suddenly now become how to manage – and even quell – the growing expectations surrounding a team that flamed out of the World Cup four years ago.
HOME-CONTINENT EDGE: The South American teams have been performing very well so far this tournament against their European counterparts, but Ecuador will have an uphill climb to make it out of the group ahead of top-seeded Switzerland. Not only will they likely need a result against France, they’ll need Honduras to try to pull off an upset against the Swiss and try to get a win or a draw of their own.
Luckily for Ecuador, they currently hold the first tiebreaker over Switzerland (with a goal differential of zero to Switzerland’s minus-two), making the road to qualification a little less bumpy.
DEFENSIVE QUESTIONS: While France’s attack has soared in Brazil, there are more questions surrounding their defense heading into their final group-stage match as the unit allowed Switzerland to score two late goals.
A thigh strain also forced Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho off late in that game and his status heading into Wednesday’s match is unclear. Without Sakho, France could struggle to contain Ecuador’s Enner Valencia, who has three goals in two games.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Karim Benzema, forward, France – The Real Madrid veteran has been an offensive force, scoring three goals and having another one discounted because it came right at the final whistle of France’s 5-2 win over Switzerland. Benzema currently is one goal off the World Cup Golden Boot lead, behind only Neymar.
Karim Benzema at the World Cup: 3 goals 2 assists 1 missed penalty 2 goals disallowed 1 forced own goal. #FRA— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 20, 2014
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Jefferson Montero, midfielder, Ecuador – With France likely focusing on Valencia and star captain Antonio Valencia (no relation), that could open up some space for Montero, a dynamic winger with pace.