Few teams have won their group with three successive victories – only Colombia and the Dutch have done so at the time of writing – but France improved upon their opening game showing when trashing Switzerland and confidence should be high for Les Bleus against Ecuador.
Their opener against Honduras was a bruising affair – on account of the opposition but Didier Deschamps’ side impressed with their control before an opening penalty for Karim Benezema saw them on their way home and they only ever improved throughought the rest of what was an ill tempered affair.
However their destruction of Switzerland, in which the French were truly outstanding from start to finish, has really set tongues wagging and left Les Bleus as short as 8/1, less than half their pre tournament price, ahead of their match against Ecuador imminently.
Ecuador are on the back foot as far as qualification is concerned, with a point for the Swiss against Honduras in Manaus at the same time likely to put them out if they lose to France, and a failure to match that result also likely to leave them going home. It’s worth remembering that their game with the Swiss was a tight one, with Ecuador looking set to have taken the match before being broken on before a length of the field break was finished off by Harris Seferovic’s goal, less than a minute after the unmarked Michael Arroyo had failed to finish one of the game’s guilt edged chances, and then their game against Honduras, while arguably deservedly won by El Tri, resembled pinball more than football at times such was the end to end nature of the game.
That said, they do have forward running threats in Juan Parades and Walter Ayovi regularly bombing down the wings and that threat was a huge asset against both Switzerland and Ecuador, and with France having changed their rear-guard then they may be able to take some hope coming into the game. However Bacary Sagna is no back number despite his age of 31 and Lucas Digne – 20 but good enough to be on PSG’s books – is protected by Blasé Matiudi.
Elsewhere, the effects of Deschamps’ changes should be minimal; Antoine Griezmann at least the equal of Olivier Giroud while the return to Paul Pogba is a major boost for their midfield prospects for a side that does look a class ahead of their opposition. Tasty pre match quotes of 17-20 are gone but it’s worth remembering that this is a side that did put 5 past the Swiss and three past Honduras, while Ecuador have won three of their last 16 and kept just 2 clean sheets in their last 17 games. Both teams have score in their last 8 however and France did look open enough for Ecuador to entertain scoring, so the 13/5 on France to win without a clean sheet does appeal, while the near 2-1 on them beating the one goal handicap also makes sense going on what’s been seen so far.
1 pt France to win and both teams to score (13/5 Boylesports)
1 pt France -1 (7/4 SpreadEx)