Play by play

FT: France 0-0 Ecuador. France can not claim victory over Ecuador, but it can claim Group E, which is enough to avoid Argentina in the knockout round. They fielded a weakened side from the two that destroyed Switzerland and Honduras. There were many chances, but the Marquis Antoine du Griezmann XVII, Cream Benzema, Blaze Matuidi and Co. couldn’t finish any of them. Ecuador has talent, but Antonio Valencia’s red card was the dagger. In the other match, Switzerland won 3-0, joining France in the next round. Guess who was on hand to ensure the French flag over Tegucigalpa became a Swiss one? Oh, nobody special. Just the guy whose international NGO is located IN GENEVA. #ConspiracyTalk. But, of course, this whole tournament is on the up-and-up. Nothing shady at all. Still no word on Luis Suarez, btw. Thanks for tuning in today. Join us tomorrow for a MASSIVE match. I suspect the USA and Germany will serve up something spicier than a 0-0 draw. VAMOS AMERICA!!!!!!! I mean, ALLEZ LES BLEUS!

Feelin’ up on Giroud. So much jealousy in the world.

Pulpo Paul Pogballer’s been schooling guys all day, but just…can’t…finish.

After Enner Valencia ruins his free run at goal, and after the referee plays advantage, Loic Remy finds himself one-on-one in the box. He takes his time, leans left, and curls a shot toward the far corner, but Dominguez saves. We are minutes away from France conquering Ecuador…with a draw. Meanwhile, Switzerland is surviving by virtue of Honduras’ profligacy. Yes, it’s 3-0 over there, but it could be 3-3. 

REWIND: Arroyo’s miss. Stepover. Stepover. And then probably kills a spectator with his shot.

Erazo is booked. Moments earlier Ibarra turned Varane in the box and struck well. Lloris was up to the task and, despite spilling the rebound in front of goal, his defense cleared the danger.

Ecuador need goals.

GAME-BREAK: HONDURAS 0 – 3 SWITZERLAND || Josip Drmić approached the box from the left flank and threw a few stepovers in the direction of Honduran defender Víctor Bernárdez, which thoroughly confused Bernárdez. After Drmić finished making a mockery of Bernárdez, he squared the ball to Shaqiri, who calmly finished for his third goal. Goodnight, Honduras. This was not your finest hour. Ecuador, with their 10 men, need to get to scorin’.

The match is devolving into manhandling. Some people pay money to watch that sorta thing. Not me. I’m not judging though. Ecuador is flinging themselves here and there, grabbing and hacking. It still has a carefree flavor to it, but it’s trending toward reckless.

POGBALLER….NOT QUITE. A beautiful floated ball to the far post, but Pogba heads it just wide. Still 0-0 with 15 minutes to go.

Here is is, folks! This is an interesting way to come on. I think the “sexy Giroud” thing is going to his head a bit.

Giroud is the centerpiece of France’s propaganda campaign. And it’s already working…

Blaze is off for this man. Look out Ecuador.

Someone call GQ. What’s the rule on the two-button? At what point do you fasten one? Both?

Blaze to Cream. Turns and leaves for Blaze. He shoots, but right at Dominguez. France is starting to feel their man advantage.

The wave: will France allow such subversive behavior after it raises the flag over Quito?

A Torcida se agita!!! #copadomundo2014 #brasil #maracanã #riodejaneiro #françaequador 👏⚽️😃😎✌️👍

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Rueda is plotting, figuring out which French player needs to pay for the Valencia loss.

Cream Benzema has space in the box! His initial effort is blocked, but he spots a charging Pogballer and feeds him. His shot is blocked high and Dominguez gathers. 

Forget the man disadvantage. Enner Valencia darts into space, lays it off for Noboa just inside the top of the box, but the chance is wasted. It’s hard to imagine a better chance down a Valencia. 

REWIND: Rojo for Valencia.

REWIND: The Marquis goes close.

Ecuador’s hopes just fading significantly. Antonio Valencia shows his studs and leaves his feet when challenging Digne. Digne is down and in serious pain. The referee very deliberately waits, investigates, and shows the Ecuadorian captain red. Mind-boggling decision from the veteran. Maybe the lack of altitude is impairing his judgment.

Sagna with a beautiful overlap and cross to Marquis Antoine du Griezmann XVII. The Marquis touches it on goal, forcing a save from Dominguez that goes onto the crossbar and back out again. Everyone deserves applause there.

The players are back on the pitch. Ecuador is 45 minutes from going back to their beautiful high-altitude homes. Switzerland is 45 minutes from playing Argentina. WE’RE OFF!!!

Speaking of baguettes…

I see French stereotypes are alive and well. International soccer is one of the few places where this stuff happens. For example, you can’t go to work like this.

REWIND: Antonio Valencia tries to get up like Enner Valencia, but he’s much more interesting in knocking heads than scoring with them.  

REWIND: With hops like this, Enner Valencia’s helping fans get over losing Tim Cahill.

HT: Ecuador 0-0 France. Geneva is still under French rule. NGO’s now have better cheese and wine in their cafeterias. Italian, Swiss German, and Romansch are still verboten. But let’s stay positive while we can. Like this kid…

Antonio Valencia gets away with a forearm to Sakho’s head. He’s down in pain, but Antonio of House Valence smooths things over with the Pogballer. Interesting that the Manchester United winger would go to a Manchester United target for diplomatic assistance.

REWIND: Pulpo Paul Pogballer attempts a very awkward header with the top-back of his head.

Montero does really well to dance to the end line and center for Enner Valencia, who jumps and…STILL HANGING…STILL HANGING…STILL…HANGING…heads down, but Hugo Lloris saves.

Marquis Antoine du Griezmann XVII sends in a fine ball, but the Pogballer can’t get much on it. Still, he forces a save from Dominguez.

GAME-BREAK: HONDURAS 0 – 2 SWITZERLAND || It’s Shaqiri again, once again getting behind the Honduran defense and slotting home to the right corner to double the lead for the Swiss. Now Ecuador really need goals. They need to bring on extra men if necessary. And it is necessary. 

Ecuador is not playing like a team that is 60 minutes from going home. Or maybe they are…maybe they’re homesick.

Blaze Matuidi gets run through and is limping. Then, Sagna runs the overlap, gets kicked by Ayovi, and now he’s down, too. The one thing that can lead to France giving back Geneva and Tegucigalpa is injuries. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud is sitting on the bench thinking, “But do they have anyone this handsome on the bench? Probably not.”

You know who’s not sucking down water? The team that’s from altitude.

France launches a counterattack. Sissoko’s cross is turned away, but Sagna’s find its way through. Dominguez comes off his line and gets the slightest touch, depriving Cream Benzema the chance to head in from close range.

Here’s the doppler radar over the Maracanã. We’ve got scattered thunderstorms over the Ecuador half with mostly sunny skies in the French half.

These seems important. Enner Valencia is limping. It could be intentional–a diversionary tactic–or perhaps he picked up a knock. Ecuador still has big hopes to make it to the next round. But then again, they have no idea that the Swiss are ahead. Someone tell them! Actually, by now, they probably know.

So far, I’ve seen no confirmation that altitude is a pro or con for Ecuador. France is enjoying most of the possession and have relatively few grass stains on those beautiful kits. Still, few real chances. Sissoko strikes a left-footed volley well, but right at Dominguez. 

GAME-BREAK: HONDURAS 0 – 1 SWITZERLAND || Xherdan Shaqiri cuts in from the right side, across the top of the box, and bends a gorgeous ball to the far post. Noel Valladares doesn’t have a chance. AS IT STANDS, Switzerland are now going through in second place over Ecuador. Someone tell Ecuador.

The commentators ponder if France has benefited from the absence of Franck Ribery. You remember Franck, don’t know?

Blaze doing Blaze things. He earns a corner. Pulpo Paul–yes, he took the psychic octopus’ name–has been doing Pulpo Paul things. These guys are why the rest of Group E can’t have nice things. And why Tegucigalpa and Geneva now fly the French flag.

France is wearing their “away” kits, which don’t have collars. That’s right. France doesn’t think they need to dress it up “on the road.” And sweatshirts on top of that? What happened to manners? Just look at Lloris taunting us.

And so it begins…and we were having SO MUCH FUN!

I don’t know why Lloris is looking like this is his testimonial. He has the feels, it seems.

Some pre-game tidbits. I need to go to the library and check out some books, because I don’t recall anything about Ecuadorian Vikings.

Here are the 22 who will do battle.

You may not like this traditional Ecuadorian music, but the imagery reinforces the whole altitude narrative, which I find irresistible.

Okay, enough talk about France’s aspiration of world domination. This replacement anthem will make you want to quit whatever you’re doing (unless you’re in France) and go spend the rest of your life in Paris. I’m having a tough time not leaving for the airport right now…

France boasts the Marquis Antoine du Griezmann XVII, Cream Benzema, Blaze Matuidi, and other fearsome aristocrats as well. Like this guy.

Вот еще француз – весь в петухах… #brasil #brazil #riodejaneiro #maracana #france #worldcup2014

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For now, France and Ecuador may appear to be living in perfect harmony, but make no mistake that France is here to assure they stay atop the mountain.

And then you have France. Here’s the skinny.

You’ll also hear plenty about Los Valencias–Antonio and Enner. The former is a winger for Manchester United and easily the most recognized player outside of Ecuador. The latter is, or was, a winger that is now a striker and has two goals to his name. After his last goal, he went in search of a baby mama…or he has a baby mama…I’m not entirely certain.

I want you to brace yourself for a lot of talk about altitude. You might have heard: Ecuador has some serious altitude. Ecuadorian lungs are HUGE. A tourist that tries to walk to the corner store will almost assuredly die of altitude sickness. Possibly hypothermia and or over-humidification. I might have made up that last part. And so that’s why Ecuador is feared, or hampered, depending on the commentator. 

Who and what are this Ecuador team? Great question. This might answer that.

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro for the Group E finale. What’s up for grabs? Second place. France has conquered Tegucigalpa and Geneva with ease and now have a host of Mayan ruins and international NGOs at their disposal. What will they do with them? Probably convert it all into cafes and vineyards and build a Thunderball-esque underwater lair just off the Bay Islands. I’m intrigued. Ecuador isn’t. They’re conspiring to thwart France’s plot. Granted, it would take a four-goal (or greater) margin to knock France from their perch atop Group E, but a win would likely seal progress. In the other match, Switzerland faces Honduras, who are playing just for pride. The Swiss need a better result than Ecuador and must overturn a two-goal-differential deficit. We’ll keep you posted throughout the match. France and Ecuador face of at the Estádio do Maracanã. This is where the magic will happen. Take a look.