Of all the teams arriving in Brazil with question marks over them, France began the journey with one of the heaviest loads. The long shadows cast by the events in South Africa meant that Les Bleus couldn’t just arrive at the tournament and win games, as most expected them to, having been handed one of the potentially easiest groups of the tournament from a European perspective.
No, Didier Deschamps squad had to win, win convincingly, and win with smiles on their faces. Against the Swiss, the smiles were so wide and confident that the French allowed two goals and all who witnessed it still considered it one of the most comprehensive wins of the tournament so far.
The much lauded Swiss defense was cut to pieces by the counter attacking power of France, time and again left charging into space to create chance after chance. Not just a bunch of athletic pace merchants, there was some exquisite passing, control, and dribbling from all parts of the pitch. With the exception of their defense (Raphael Varane, ahem), this squad features some of the most well-rounded modern footballers in Brazil.
Six points from two games, the French are one game away from becoming the 3rd group winner to win with maximum points, joining the intimidating company of Netherlands and Colombia. Their goal difference means that only the unlikeliest scenarios would see them go through second in the group. Still, do not expect Deschamps to allow his players to take their collective foot off the gas. A born leader, Deschamps knows the value that momentum, focus, and confidence bring to the cruel world of tournament football.
With no serious injury concerns, I would expect to see a largely unchanged side from the XI that faced the Swiss. After what many presumed was a time out for his petulance against Honduras, Pogba should be back along side Blaise Matuidi. In a move that was in no way pre-meditated, Yohan Cabaye earned his second yellow against Switzerland and will sit out this game. I’d expect to see Morgan Schneiderlin come in since he’s got the experience working as a defensive midfielder in a system that values quick passing and fluid positioning.
Even before the groups were drawn, there were never huge expectations for Ecuador. Aside from being infamous as one of world football’s most grueling away games, La Tri have been a side best described as functional. They have one general plan for winning a game, just enough quality players to make it a possibility, and enough determination to push to the final whistle.