For the first time this World Cup, France failed to score a goal and earn a win.
But it didn’t matter for Les Blues, whose scoreless draw with Ecuador at Estadio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday was enough for them to win Group E with seven points.
And despite a strong showing to slow down France, who had scored eight goals in their previous two games, the result wasn’t enough for 10-man Ecuador to advance. La Tri finishes with a 1-1-1 record in Group E – two points behind second-place Switzerland – to become the first South American team at this World Cup not to qualify for the knockout rounds.
France advance to face Group F runner-up Nigeria in the Round of 16 on Monday (12 pm ET, ESPN/Univision in US, CBC in Canada).
NOT VERY CAPTAINLY: Early in the second half, Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia put his team in a huge hole when his studs-up tackle on Lucas Digne earned him a straight red card. Valencia became the first-ever Ecuadorian player to be ejected from a World Cup game, and playing down a man for all but five minutes of the second half proved to be too much for Ecuador to grab a win against a strong France side.
RED CARD Valencia http://t.co/c3gSS3BORB— Football Vines (@FootballVines) June 25, 2014
BENZEMA VS. VALENCIA : What was expected to be an electric showdown between two of the tournament’s top goalscorers failed to produce much sizzle. Ecuador’s Enner Valencia and France’s Karim Benzema both came into the game with three World Cup goals (one off the Golden Boot lead) but couldn’t add to their total – although Valencia could have certainly had one in the 41st minute if not for a huge save from Hugo Lloris on a high-flying header that showcased the Ecuadorian’s serious ups. Benzema, meanwhile, put a clean shot on target in the 84th minute but didn’t do nearly enough with it to score.
FRENCH OFFENSE SPUTTERS: Despite playing up a man for most of the second half, France couldn’t get their offense clicking as they had in their previous World Cup games. Much of that was due to Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, who kept the game level with a couple of monster saves, including one with the help of the post on Antoine Griezmann in the 47th minute. But some of that was also due to France’s own miscues – such as when Paul Pogba failed to even put a close-range header on net.
BLOODY BATTLE: Ecuador midfielder Christian Noboa suffered a nasty gash when he collided heads with Blaise Matuidi in the first half. But, just like Clint Dempsey before him, he didn’t let that a little blood stop him, wearing protective headgear that was an interesting fashion look. In the 54th minute, the battered Noboa even had one of the best chances of the game but pushed an open shot wide.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dominguez – Ecuador are going home but it’s not because of their goalie. Against a terrific offensive team, Dominguez made nine saves to earn an improbable shutout.