France looks to repeat 1998 feat with 3 group wins

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 23, 2014 at 10:46 am •  Published: June 23, 2014
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RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — If France beats Ecuador in Wednesday's Group E match, it will be the first time it has won all three group games in a major competition since 1998 — the year it went on to win the World Cup.

This kind of talk worries France coach Didier Deschamps, who captained the side in '98 and who has been trying to play down the growing hype after his team's 5-2 thumping of Switzerland last Friday.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has joined Deschamps in trying to quell rising expectations back home, saying Sunday that "things are going quicker than I'd imagined. I think a bit too quickly and there's a little bit of excess."

Anything but a win against Ecuador will be seen as disappointing, however, considering how France has started the tournament with such attacking intent — scoring eight goals in two games after opening with a 3-0 win over Honduras.

But Deschamps is wary of dismissing Ecuador, given how the World Cup is becoming such a wide-open tournament.

"Who would think that Costa Rica would have six points, in the group they're in? No one," he said, pointing to Costa Rica's surprise wins against 2010 World Cup semifinalist Uruguay and 2006 winner Italy. "I saw the match between Netherlands and the Australia and there really wasn't much in it. Other teams have been doing well here, not just us."

A draw is enough to guarantee top spot for France, and would also send Ecuador through to the next round if Switzerland fails to beat Honduras in the other match.

Ecuador and Switzerland have three points each, but Ecuador has a better goal difference — although it is likely to face a far more severe test against a French attack featuring Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, who both scored and created goals against the Swiss.

"The way to read it is that we're going to have a lot of work," Ecuador center half Frickson Erazo said.

France has scored 39 goals in 11 games, including 16 in the past three having thumped Jamaica 8-0 before boarding the plane to Brazil.