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France vow no let up in last 16 race

(AFP) – France are vowing no let up of their thrilling attacking style as they seek to storm into the last 16 of the World Cup against Ecuador on Wednesday.

Didier Deschamps’ side have been one of the revelations of the tournament so far, bagging eight goals in two games to all but seal qualification from Group E.

A draw in Wednesday’s game at the Maracana Stadium would be enough to clinch first place and avoid a probable meeting with Argentina in the last 16.

But France full-back Mathieu Debuchy says his team-mates will aim to finish with a flourish to maintain momentum.

“We need to avoid taking our foot off the gas even if there is not a huge amount at stake,” Debuchy said.

“We want to win this match and maintain our positive dynamic in order to prepare well for what is to come.”

France’s huge goal difference of plus six also means they could even lose to Ecuador and still win the group.

Switzerland, level with Ecuador on three points but trailing on goal difference, would then need to win big against Honduras to have any chance of advancing.

France’s comfortable position means Deschamps can shrug off the loss of suspended midfielder Yohan Cabaye, with Lille’s Rio Mavuba set to come in.

Deschamps can also contemplate replacing centre-back Mamadou Sakho — who came off against the Swiss with a thigh problem — with Laurent Koscielny. Eliaquim Mangala is also on standby as Raphael Varane has been laid low by a stomach bug.

Debuchy meanwhile praised the spirit of unity in the French squad, a stark contrast to the divisions and acrimony that torpedoed their 2010 campaign in South Africa.

“Honestly, it is great to play in this side. We feel great and I love the attacking football,” he said.

“I might be a defender, but I like it when everyone plays together as a team.”

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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