The group leader is guaranteed top spot in Group E after scoring eight goals in its first two games, while the South Americans must match Switzerland's result to reach last 16.RIO DE JANEIRO — France has emphatically secured its qualification for the last 16, and its goal difference means it will finish winners of Group E regardless of the outcome of its final match against Ecuador.
Didier Deschamps’ side has scored eight goals in its first two games, smashing five past Switzerland last time out, and he has his attacking starters – most notably Karim Benzema – playing with supreme confidence.
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Many are tipping Les Blues as dark horses to win the World Cup following a display described by Deschamps as ‘absolutely perfect’, and the draw could open up for them favorably in the knockout stages.
Deschamps has intelligently freshened up his starting lineup in the first two matches and is expected to again find the balance between making changes and maintaining France’s momentum.
Yohan Cabaye is suspended, with Rio Mavuba or Moussa Sissoko set to start in the PSG midfielder's place, while Mamadou Sakho is an injury doubt and expected to be replaced by Laurent Koscielny in central defense.
Ecuador needs to match or better Switzerland’s result against Honduras to book a place in the second round.
After a slightly unfortunate defeat to Switzerland, Reinaldo Rueda’s men came from behind to beat Honduras last Friday, with striker Enner Valencia scoring both of Ecuador’s goals in a feisty encounter.
They will look to play aggressively against France and upset their opponents rhythm, while Valencia’s form in the penalty box is likely to be their main route to goal.
The most likely change to the side that started against Honduras is a recall for Carlos Gruezo in place of Oswaldo Minda in central midfield.