ECUADOR 0, FRANCE 0 (WORLD CUP GROUP E)
HONDURAS 0, SWITZERLAND 3 (WORLD CUP GROUP E)
XHERDAN SHAQIRI HAT TRICK SENDS SWISS THROUGH, FRANCE KEEP TEN MAN ECUADOR AT BAY AFTER ANTONIO VALENCIA IS SENT OFF
For large tracts of their final Group E game, both France and Ecuador cancelled each other out. The French didn’t look in danger and the Ecuadorians were getting no change from their opponents.
News that the Swiss had taken a commanding lead over the Hondurans courtesy of a double by Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri in the other group game ensured that Ecuador had to beat the French in order to join them in the knockout phase.
Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia was sent off for a studs up challenge on France’s Lucas Digne shortly after half time. Valencia’s boot slipped over the ball and raked the Frenchman leaving referee Noumandiez Doue with no choice but to expel the United winger after consulting with his assistants.
As is usually the case, the ten men of Ecuador had to attack and it was no small surprise that they upped a gear and created even more chances. Enner Valencia, one of the surprise packages of the tournament, ran free during a 3v2 counter attack and slipped Cristhian Noboa through on goal only to see the midfielder shank his golden chance to break the deadlock chance wide.
The mountain could only grow higher for Ecuador as they not only had to win but had to score twice against the French too after Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri completed his hat trick against Honduras in their game late in the second half. It was the second hat trick of World Cup 2014 after Thomas Muller’s against Portugal and the 50th in all World Cups.
Both games had been physical affairs, with solid penalty shouts not given when claimed by Jerry Palacios of Honduras and evidence of penalty area tussling on both sides in the France/Ecuador game.
Alexander Dominguez was a hero in the Ecuador goal as he repelled all manner of French attempts on goal including several by Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba and a late curling one by Loic Remy and a header by Olivier Giroud.
Ecuador never gave up attacking, however, and pushed France all the way until the final whistle when it was confirmed that they were finally out.