France vow to go for the win against Ecuador

France only need a draw against Ecuador in their final group match on Wednesday but Les Bleus' coach Didier Deschamps has vowed his team will go for the win against the South Americans. Several French players are set to be rested with the next round in mind.

France vow to go for the win against Ecuador
French striker Karim Benzema may be rested against Ecuador on Wednesday. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

France coach Didier Deschamps has urged his team to keep their excellent start to the World Cup going when they face Ecuador at the Maracana in their final Group E game.

"We need to try to maintain everything we have done so far and finish the job," said Deschamps as France look to clinch qualification for the last 16 on Wednesday as group winners against an Ecuador side whose own place in the knockout rounds is at stake too.

"We will be up against a team who are also competing for a place in the next round so we can't take this game lightly."

France have scored a total of eight goals in their two matches to date, against Honduras and Switzerland, and their goal difference is such that even a defeat at the Maracana is unlikely to deny them a berth in the last 16.

"The level of commitment from the players has been the same as has the way we have prepared for this match," said the coach.

"We are aiming to ensure first place but that will require us to play well because we are up against a quality side.

"The objective for us is to win the match and we are taking it very seriously. Up until now we have been clinical in front of goal but with respect to Ecuador we can't think it will be easy."

Nevertheless, Deschamps is set to ring the changes for the game, including bringing in the Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin in place of the suspended Yohan Cabaye.

Other alterations to the team that thumped Switzerland 5-2 last Friday could see Bacary Sagna and Lucas Digne start in the full-back positions and Laurent Koscielny come into central defence.

"You will see tomorrow (Wednesday) what changes I will make," was all Deschamps would say, as he refused to confirm whether even Karim Benzema, scorer of three goals thus far, would start.

The France team were unable to train on the Maracana surface on the eve of the game due to the state of the pitch, so were forced to do so several kilometres away at Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Stadium.

As a result, goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris was spared the journey back to the Maracana to speak to the media, leaving duties to the banned Cabaye.

The Paris Saint-Germain player said Schneiderlin, whose only cap to date came in the 8-0 friendly win over Jamaica earlier this month, was ideally suited to take his place.

"Morgan is a very good player. What he is doing in England shows he has quality," said Cabaye of Schneiderlin, who was called into the squad to replace the injured Clement Grenier.

"He is good technically, he keeps the ball, scores goals and is a box-to-box player. He has shown a lot of quality since the start of our preparation for the tournament and now he is ready."

With Ecuador favouring a direct approach, Wednesday's game could well be a high-scoring encounter.

Wingers Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero will provide the ammunition for Felipe Caicedo and the in-form Enner Valencia, who has three goals so far.

Reinaldo Rueda's Ecuador only need to match the Swiss result in the other game to reach the last 16 for the first time since Germany in 2006.

Enner Valencia said Ecuador were wary of the threat posed by France's attack, led by Karim Benzema, who also has three goals to his name.

"They're going to be very difficult opponents, we know France's strengths but we're going to have to take care if we want to hurt them," said Enner Valencia, 24, whose brace secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over Honduras in Curitiba last Friday.

The veteran Edison Mendez added: "They have played very well in their two matches so far, collectively they are doing well and they are getting into the box a lot, so it is going to be a totally different game for us.

"But to know that we have a chance of going through to the last 16 means that we will take to the field feeling confident and strong."

Should Honduras win and Ecuador lose, the calculators would need to come out to work out who joins France in the last 16.

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France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

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