Rio de Janeiro: France coach Didier Deschamps on Wednesday admitted that his decision to make sweeping changes prevented Les Bleus from performing at their best in a 0-0 World Cup draw with Ecuador. Les Bleus will now face Nigeria.
“When there are changes it does have an impact on the cohesion of the team,” he said after the draw at the Maracana that saw France progress to the last 16 as winners of Group E.
Deschamps made six changes to the team that hammered Switzerland 5-2 last Friday, including bringing in Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin for his first international start in place of the banned Yohan Cabaye.
The draw against an Ecuador side that played most of the second half with 10 men after captain Antonio Valencia was sent off may have sealed France’s qualification as group winners, but their performance was nothing like the spectacular showing against the Swiss.
“I could put out the same team every time, but then it would be pointless having the other players here,” said Deschamps. “I have confidence in all 23 players and we needed to find the right balance between preserving some who have played a lot of games and making sure that others who we may require later on are in good condition.
“It takes away some of the fluidity and we were less dangerous in the first half. After the red card we had a bit more space and some good moves but were not as clinical in front of goal as usual.”
However, Deschamps added: “It would need a lot more than that to spoil our satisfaction and our joy. We came here to seal our qualification and finish first, and we did it. We didn’t see ourselves as kings of the world after our victory against Switzerland. Every match is difficult. The World Cup is the highest level.”
Meanwhile, Deschamps insisted that he had not seen a supposed elbow by defender Mamadou Sakho on Ecuador midfielder Oswaldo Minda, which upset his opposite number Reinaldo Rueda.
France: Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Mamadou Sakho (Raphael Varane, 61), Laurent Koscielny, Lucas Digne, Paul Pogba, Morgan Schneiderlin, Blaise Matuidi (Olivier Giroud, 67), Antoine Griezmann (Loic Remy 79), Karim Benzema, Moussa Sissoko
Ecuador: Alexander Dominguez, Jorge Guagua, Frickson Erazo, Juan Paredes, Cristhian Noboa (Felipe Caicedo, 89), Walter Ayovi, Oswaldo Minda, Antonio Valencia, Michael Arroyo (Gabriel Achilier, 82), Jefferson Montero (Alex Ibarra, 63), Enner Valencia
Man of the Match: Alexander Dominguez
Referee: Noumandiez Doue (Ivory Coast)