France can draw the sting out of Ecuador.
Like England, there were few expectations surrounding France in this year’s finals. But, unlike Roy Hodgson’s men, Didier Deschamps’ squad have exceeded those expectations and have shown that they can be united under the Tricolor.
Victories over Honduras and Switzerland, scoring eight goals in the process, means that they only need a draw at best against Ecuador to top Group E.
With a plus six goal difference, Les Bleus could even afford to lose their final game and still win their section but the coach won’t want his side to lose any momentum with stiffer tests ahead.
Karim Benzema is relishing being his team’s main man in Brazil. The Real Madrid striker has had his critics in the past but scored twice against Honduras and got another against the hapless Swiss and could even afford to miss a penalty.
The French are certainly impressive going forward and have the potential to go a long way. England’s Premier League stars may have come up short but the top flight is well represented in Deschamps’ squad and also among Belgian ranks so maybe the quality is there and just home talent needs to be exploited in a different way under the Three Lions badge.
Ecuador came from behind to beat Honduras in their second game after losing their first against Switzerland in stoppage time.
Reinaldo Rueda’s team will have to raise their game against the French if they are to qualify as you would expect Switzerland to pick up three points against the so-far pointless Hondurans but Ecuador are a durable bunch and will have the majority of the support inside the Maracana.
They have unearthed a new star in Mexico-based striker Enner Valencia, who has scored all three of their goals so far. He has a predator’s instinct but will need a supply line and the French will be well aware that most of their opponent’s attacking play is orchestrated by Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia.
Ecuador will give it a go – they have little option – but France can keep them at arm’s length and could be content to cruise through to the last 16 with a draw (5/2). A 1-1 correct score is 9/2.
The match kicks off at 9pm UK time on Wednesday June 25th at the Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro.