Silent but deadly France top Group E

Ecuador's Walter Ayovi fights for the ball with France's Moussa Sissoko during their World Cup...

Ecuador's Walter Ayovi fights for the ball with France's Moussa Sissoko during their World Cup Group E match at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 25, 2014. (SERGIO MORAES/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO - France has been one of the quiet powers in the 2014 World Cup.

If you watched them against Ecuador on Wednesday, one would have thought they’ve been quiet for good reason. They didn’t look very good.

France and Ecuador played to a 0-0 draw. France owns top spot in Group E and has a knockout game against Nigeria. Switzerland, No. 2 in the group, gets Argentina.

It’s the first time France topped its group since 1998 when they went on to win the World Cup on home soil.

Don’t judge France by Wednesday’s tepid effort in a tedious game against Ecuador.

Les Bleues were all but assured of finishing first in their group. They had no trouble against Switzerland or Honduras earlier in the tournament.

Going into the game against Ecuador, manager Didier Deschamps decided to rest some of his top players and those who had a yellow card. His backline was revamped. Six changes in total were made.

Antoine Griezmann started in favour of Olivier Giroud, while Lucas Digne, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny all came in at the back. He did use Karim Benzema, but Patrice Evra sat as did Mathieu Valbuena.

So far in this tournament the French have been impressive with some ranking them the team to beat.

The Dutch may disagree, but French fans don’t care. They are ecstatic with their team moving on. The strains of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, could be heard reverberating throughout Stadium Maracana and the streets outside long after the game ended.

France did not stumble into the second round. They went through full bore and generated great hope for the knockout phase of the tournament.

Yes, they were drawn into one of the easiest groups at the World Cup, but they easily handled a good Switzerland team on both sides of the ball.

The French should be happy to be in the position they are in considering where they were at this time four years ago in South Africa.

They suffered through a terrible and embarrassing World Cup in 2010 rife with internal squabbling and politics as manager Raymond Domenech and his players almost tore French football apart.

Every day brought another incident and another argument. The situation culminated when the team refused to train for their coach.

The appointment of Didier Deschamps seems to have brought some peace and tranquility to the French. He is more a player’s coach and recognizes that he has an athletic group of athletes. Rather than force them to play a system they didn’t feel comfortable playing, he has fit the system to the players.

The result was a team setup that had them going forward and creating chances.

Even with the unfortunate loss of top forward Franck Ribery before the tournament began, Deschamps had a lot of depth to work with.

To the shock of many observers, he left some well-known names off the roster.

So far, however, so good.

France tied Ecuador despite a different backline than it had in the first two games of this World Cup.

It’s why France was rated as one of the best defensive sides in the tournament.

Some suggest France’s backline is the weakest part of this team. Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba at the midfield are a strong combination of attack and holding power.

The biggest concern for Deschamps was probably the injury to Ribery, but Karim Benzema stepped up and already has three goals in this tournament.

Success for Deschamps’ side comes with 90 minutes of concentration, something that has eluded the French in the past.

Deschamps also needs the serenity to continue when his club is off the pitch. With their success so far, there’s no reason for anyone to be unhappy.


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