FIFA World Cup Preview: Ecuador v France
By Football News
France need just a point against Honduras to make sure of their place in the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup and finish top of Group E.
The 1998 champions have enjoyed an excellent campaign so far, cruising past 10-man Honduras 3-0 before crushing Switzerland 5-2 last Friday.
Those victories have left France in command of their group and avoiding defeat on Wednesday will likely see Didier Deschamps' side avoid a potential clash with two-time winners Argentina, who head Group F.
However, France should meet a strong challenge from an Ecuador side desperate for three points to ensure their progression into the knockout stages.
Reinaldo Rueda's team kept hopes alive by coming from behind to beat Honduras 2-1 in their previous game, but could still need a favour from the group's bottom side in order to qualify.
Anything other than a win for Ecuador will see them relying on Honduras, who still harbour slim hopes of qualification, preventing Switzerland from taking maximum points in their final group-stage fixture.
Even a win may not be enough for Ecuador if Switzerland also claim victory and make up a goal-difference deficit of two.
"Honduras are a team with character, experienced players, and I'm sure they will make it an intense match," Rueda said.
"Let's hope they can take points against the Swiss, since that would be important for us as long as we get a good result against France."
France's scintillating attacking performances in Brazil have led some pundits to suggest that Deschamps' men could return to the Maracana - the scene for their meeting with Ecuador - for the World Cup final on July 13.
However, playmaker Mathieu Valbuena is eager to maintain focus on the challenge posed by Ecuador.
"We're not quite through yet," he said.
"Ecuador are a hard-working side and will be playing for their place in the next round. That said, we're our own number one enemy.
"We want to finish top of the group. It would be nice to avoid Argentina.
"We all want to play in this match, myself more than anyone. There's a lot riding on this game."
Although France could theoretically exit the tournament should Ecuador and Switzerland triumph by healthy margins, it would not be a surprise if Deschamps opted to rest several players.
Olivier Giroud may lead the line again after impressing against Switzerland, but midfielder Yohan Cabaye is suspended.
Patrice Evra and Paul Pogba head into the clash with a booking to their name, while Juan Paredes, Jefferson Montero, Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia are all on a yellow card for Ecuador.