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Ecuador vs. France: 6 Things We Learned

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

Ecuador vs. France: 6 Things We Learned

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    France have qualified as the top team in the FIFA World Cup’s Group E after a 0-0 draw with Ecuador in Rio de Janeiro, and they will face Nigeria in the last 16. As a result of the French victory, the South Americans are out, with Switzerland advancing in second after thumping Honduras.

    Les Bleus’ coach Didier Deschamps made a number of changes to his side at Estadio do Maracana, leading to a tepid display from the French.

    5 - #FRA have drawn more games 0-0 at World Cups since 1998 than any other nation (5 times). Stuck.

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 25, 2014

    Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia’s red card early in the second half made it difficult for Reinaldo Rueda’s men, and they could not find a way to get past Hugo Lloris. However, Alexander Dominguez was also in inspired form, keeping Les Tricolores out at the other end.

    Despite a relatively tame performance, Deschamps was delighted after the final whistle per FIFA.com.

    "We’re in the last 16, which was our objective," he said. "It’s going to take more than a draw to stop me from feeling happy about that."

    "I made a lot of changes for this match, but the objective was the same. We did everything we could to score, but you can’t win every match 3-0, and while I know we weren’t quite as effective as we were against Switzerland, Ecuador are a very fine side who have a lot of pace up front."

    Opposite number Reinaldo Rueda was disappointed, but rued the opening 2-1 defeat to Switzerland more than the France result itself.

    "It’s been a very short tournament. We’ve paid for our bad performance against Switzerland at the start, knowing that we were going to be finishing off against France," he reflected. "We tried to play our best football, but my players have had a long season and didn’t arrive at the World Cup in the greatest shape."

    Here are six things we learned from France versus Ecuador 0-0 draw.

France Should Have Been Down to 10 Men

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    Inside of 10 minutes at the Maracana, France should have been down to 10 men and chasing the game. In the same way that Les Bleus benefited from good refereeing in their opening game against Honduras, they should have been punished for Mamadou Sakho’s blatant elbow on Oswaldo Minda.

    Had Deschamps’ men been playing with one man less in the second half, the final score could have been much different, but the Liverpool man went unpunished and now could face a review and suspension.

    5 - In five of #FRA's last seven #WorldCup games there has been a Red Card. Reduced. #ECUFRA

    — OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) June 25, 2014

    To rub salt into Ecuador’s wounds, Captain Valencia was sent off early in the second half for a foul that was arguably less intentional than Sakho’s elbow.

Is Antonio Valencia Becoming a Liability?

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    That brings us to the topic of the Ecuador captain’s discipline.

    It was the second time in four matches that Valencia has seen red while leading his country and questions should now be asked of his importance to the team. Admittedly, the decision was debatable—although perhaps ultimately correct—but his dismissal left his country with 10 men in a match they really needed to win.

    2 - Antonio Valencia has been sent off in two of his last four games for #ECU. Rash.

    — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 25, 2014

    The Manchester United man is a fine player. However, after a disappointing season at the club level he may find his leadership credentials questioned.

    Still only 28, he has a good number of years left in him at the international level. Valencia must address his short fuse though; otherwise his coach and teammates will start to view him as a liability.

Deschamps the Tinkerman

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    For Group E clash with Switzerland, Deschamps made a number of changes from the side that won the opening game against Honduras and was richly rewarded for it with a 5-2 mauling. One of those omissions—Paul Pogba—was understandable as it related to his temperament from an incident in the first match, the second—Antoine Griezmann—was not so clear.

    However, both proved to be masterstrokes.

    Perhaps encouraged by the success of his changes against the Swiss, Deschamps opted to make six changes to his team—one enforced with the suspension of Yohan Cabaye—against Ecuador, and they did not all work.

    94% - @SchneiderlinMo4 has completed 94% of his passes in the 1st half, highest ratio of #ECU-#FRA. Newcomer.

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 25, 2014

    In came the likes of Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Lucas Digne and Morgan Schneiderlin, while Pogba was reinstated in midfield and Griezmann was restored to the attacking trio.

    However, despite the changes, the French lacked the creativity of Mathieu Valbuena and the metronomic presence of Cabaye against the South Americans. The match served to underline just how crucial those two are to Deschamps' side.

Enner Valencia Is a Top Talent

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    Although the World Cup is now over for Ecuador, it has proved to be a major moment in the development of Enner Valencia. The Pachuca man scored three times in three games and, although none of those goals came against France, he was a threat nonetheless.

    The 25-year-old appears to be a formidable talent, and it is surely not long before a bigger side snatches him up.

    On the night, he was a threat for the Ecuadorians and demonstrated glimpses of his ability, even though he was unable to prevent his country from crashing out.

Lucas Digne Is Ready

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    One of the changes made by Deschamps for the game was bringing Lucas Digne in for Patrice Evra. The Manchester United man is one booking away from a suspension, while the Paris Saint-Germain man was making his senior debut.

    Digne proved in his 90-minute appearance that he has what it takes to usurp his senior now, never mind in 2016 when the French host the European Championship.

    The 20-year-old was excellent, giving France real width on the left. He bombed forward and put in a number of useful crosses, while his link-up play with Antoine Griezmann is something that France fans should be salivating over the thought of.

    Although he does perhaps lack experience at present, there is no shortage of talent. He will be pushing to start ahead of Maxwell for PSG and in place of Evra permanently once this World Cup finishes.

Unbeatable Dominguez

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    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    After topping Group E, France will come up against Nigeria in the last 16 of the tournament. In order to dispose of them, they will have to overcome Vincent Enyeama.

    Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama had 10 saves vs Argentina. Most for a goalkeeper in a single match at the 2014 WC so far.

    — Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) June 25, 2014

    The Lille OSC goalkeeper will be a familiar face to many in the French squad after an incredible season with Ligue 1’s third-placed side. However, Dominguez was the perfect warm-up for Les Bleus’ attackers.

    Over the 90 minutes, Dominguez denied France with a string of vital saves and was the difference between one point and all three. Deschamps’ men will need to make sure that they are more clinical when they come up against Enyeama next week.

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