FIFA World Cup: Ecuador 0 France 0
By Football News
Ten-man Ecuador failed to get the win they needed to progress to the FIFA World Cup last 16 as they were held 0-0 by Group E winners France.
The fate of Reinaldo Rueda's men was always likely to be partly governed by Switzerland's result against Honduras - with their 3-0 win in Manaus helping to end Ecuador's hopes.
But an inability to take the chances they created against a much-changed France side, as well as Antonio Valencia's second-half dismissal, was ultimately the South Americans' undoing, while France too will recognise the need for improvement ahead of their last-16 clash against Nigeria.
France coach Didier Deschamps made a raft of changes, with France already virtually guaranteed top spot, as the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Lucas Digne and Antoine Griezmann all started.
It led to a disjointed performance in certain parts, but Ecuador were unable to find the goal and the win they were always likely to need.
Their chances were dealt a blow when captain Antonio Valencia was sent off for raking his studs down Digne's knee, and that allowed France to see out the game in relative comfort - continuing to rest players ahead of their next test.
France began with purpose as they pressed and harried Ecuador but they were given an early scare when Jefferson Montero got on the end of Antonio Valencia's long ball before being crowded out.
The lively Griezmann then pulled an effort wide after 10 minutes as France struggled to convert their possession into clear-cut chances.
Deschamps' six changes perhaps contributed to the French looking slightly out of sorts, although Moussa Sissoko was able to test Alexander Dominguez in Ecuador's goal with a left-footed volley.
Blaise Matuidi's careless loss of possession was not punished by Enner Valencia 20 minutes in before Bacary Sagna's delivery evaded the flapping Dominguez, as well as Karim Benzema.
If France were frustrated in possession early on, they were put under increasing pressure after the half-hour mark.
Exhibiting tidy passing and smart movement, Ecuador caused France problems without forging any goalscoring opportunities.
Paul Pogba and Enner Valencia both had headers saved by their opposing goalkeepers late in the half but neither side could break the deadlock before the interval.
Griezmann's flick was tipped onto the inside of the post by Dominguez shortly after the break before Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia was dismissed for the second time in his last four international appearances.
Rueda was then left to rue Cristhian Noboa's wayward finishing after Enner Valencia had robbed Pogba of possession.
However, if France were troubled by an Ecuador side with 11 men, they could afford to coast somewhat following the dismissal of Ecuador's captain - Pogba almost making life more comfortable when he went close with a header late on.
Dominguez capped off a fine performance for the South Americans with smart saves to deny Benzema and Loic Remy in the final minutes.
It proved far from vintage from Deschamps' men but an unbeaten group stage still represents progress for Les Blues after their shambolic exit in South Africa four years ago.