The final set of FIFA World Cup 2014 group games is upon us—where on earth did the time go?
Here we analyse Ecuador vs. France, where the former is gunning for qualification from Group E and the latter only needs one point to ensure top spot, per ESPN FC's Dale Johnson.
Ecuador pulled out a late win over Honduras last week courtesy of another excellent Enner Valencia display.
The aggressive support striker used Felipe Caicedo's movement well all game long, fed off the space created and buried two goals to win his side three points.
The game plan for La Tri will be exactly the same this time around, with their strengths lying clearly in pace and directness and their weaknesses in ball retention and creating from deep.
Reinaldo Rueda has done a fantastic job so far and, on the balance of two games, may just deserve a round of 16 spot ahead of Switzerland.
Didier Deschamps has some tough decisions ahead of him, as rotation could see the flow and momentum in his team disappear in its entirety.
Loic Remy, Remy Cabella, Morgan Schneiderlin, Lucas Digne, Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala and more will all fancy their chances at starting. Karim Benzema, the team's lynchpin, could get a rest in favour of Olivier Giroud.
Deschamps will slot all of the potential newcomers into the existing 4-3-3 template, with early suggestions favouring Moussa Sissoko to slot into Yohan Cabaye's role (suspension).
Right-back Mathieu Debuchy made it clear ahead of the game that momentum is vital to this side: "We need to avoid taking our foot off the gas even if there is not a huge amount at stake," he told reporters.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Antonio Valencia vs. Lucas Digne
Antonio Valencia doesn't scare the life out of full-backs anymore, but the inexperienced Digne could come in for one fiery World Cup debut if he's picked ahead of Patrice Evra.
Digne is talented and direct when going forward, and he prospers in Ligue 1, but if there's one weak point in a very good France side to target, it's him.
He's not strong, he won't hold his own physically against Valencia and he'll struggle back-pedaling down the line.
2. Catch Them High
When Ecuador settle into a low block, they're pretty strong, with Frickson Erazo a monster in and around his own penalty box.
Questions are raised, though, when you catch the defensive line higher up the pitch, and an early ball or two into Benzema or Olivier Giroud's feet could catch it in a place it doesn't perform well.
That's not to advocate France switching to a "punting" strategy; it's merely asking for a few 30-40 yard passes to build attacks from first and foremost.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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