By Mike Collett
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 25 (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps gave players who missed their opening two games the chance to shine on Wednesday but they failed to do that in a 0-0 draw against 10-man Ecuador who went out of the World Cup.
France held all the aces, especially after Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia was harshly sent off early in the second half for a clumsy but not malicious marginally studs-up tackle on Lucas Digne.
Even when they did break through a somewhat flimsy Ecuador back line, they were thwarted by a brilliant goalkeeping display from Alexander Dominguez who made a series of great stops as France came forward in waves looking for the breakthrough.
France were able to put pressure on the Ecuadorean defence because they were the better team, but they still looked ragged and did not play convincingly.
The breakthrough never came and after scoring eight goals in a 3-0 win over Honduras and 5-2 victory over Switzerland, the French, with six changes from the Swiss game, failed to impress.
Eleven-man teams do not win World Cups, 23-man squads do as France know very well following their humiliating failure at the last World Cup in South Africa when Nicolas Anelka was sent home and the campaign ended in virtual civil war which then-coach Raymond Domenech was powerless to stop.
Deschamps, mindful of that horror show, has built a new squad which to all intents and purposes exudes peace and harmony, but they missed a beat on Wednesday, raising doubts about their reserves in case of injury or suspension.
Pogba could have scored with two headers, one that Dominguez acrobatically tipped over the bar and one that Pogba inexplicably planted wide with the gaping goal at his mercy in the second half,
On the plus side, Deschamps' back four of Digne, Mamadou Sakho, Sagna and Koscielny, who had never played together before, held firm in front of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris who gave another assured display.
But a third successive victory eluded them and although they duly won the group as expected with seven points to set up a last-16 game against Group F runners-up Nigeria in Brasilia on Monday, it also showed up their limitations.
France will need to improve on this performance if they have any hopes of reaching the latter stages, but the doubts about their strength in depth, a worry before the tournament, have been raised again after two fine opening wins.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)