France rest six regulars but finish top
Despite resting six first-team stars, Les Bleus secure top spot and avoid meeting Argentina in last 16
In the end, Didier Deschamps' gamble paid off but only just.
He rested the big guns and brought out the pea-shooters and they failed to punch a hole through the obdurate Ecuadoreans.
At full-time, boos echoed around a Maracana Stadium not accustomed to hosting such sporting mediocrity, but the match proved to be a secondary concern.
France avoided Argentina in the Round of 16. Their musketeers will return rested and primed for Nigeria.
No disrespect to the amiable Ecuadoreans, but the French have bigger fish to fry. With the South Americans dominating the knockout stages, they were right to rest six first-teamers.
This 0-0 draw will swiftly be forgotten, if it hasn't been already. Attention now switches to the Nigerians.
France should be a force to be reckoned with, not that this bland fare offered any indication.
A fancy helicopter tracking shot took in the sweeping, mountainous beauty of Rio, passing the overwhelming Christ the Redeemer statue before closing in on the Estadio Maracana for kick-off.
The melodramatic opening befitted the setting and left no one under any illiusion.
The curtains were being pulled back on the world's finest football theatre.
Unfortunately, the narrative felt like a lazy one-line pitch from a movie-producing hack. Ecuador eyed a miracle. France needed a meltdown in the merde for qualification from the grasp.
Deschamps wasn't so much showing his contempt for his opponents as he was his confidence in his second-stringers getting the job done.
He made six changes but, unlike Roy Hodgson's hapless Lions against Costa Rica, the French reserves merited their inclusion.
So comfortable on the ball at St Mary's, Morgan Schneiderlin treated the Maracana like a saunter around Southampton, dropping deep to help out tournament newcomers Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Lucas Digne.
He occasionally needed to. Koscielny's dips in concentration are not exclusive to north London.
Ecuador held little in the way of attacking aspiration, with Enner Valencia cutting a lonely, isolated figure up front. Mysteriously, their formation appeared set up for a draw.
Still, the French underlings caressed the ball with a confidence that contrasted sharply with the petulance and plodding performances that plagued previous regimes.
They were like kids at a birthday party refusing to share cake. They owned the ball. Dechamps deserves great credit for cutting away those malignant, mutinous tendencies and instilling such a deeply-shared national pride.
The plastic cockerels were waved proudly in the blue half of the stadium. Their players are now keener to play for the one on the shirt.
Reinaldo Rueda tried gamely to mix things up, switching Jefferson Montero from left to right and unleashing his pace on inexperienced fullback Digne. The French held firm.
But the contest listed like creaking vessel in the second half. By which stage, both sides were in doubt about their respective World Cup fortunes.
France were eager to avoid injury. Equador were keen to avoid adding insult to theirs.
When Paul Pogba blazed over from 30 metres in a half-hearted, hit-and-hope endeavour that neatly summarised the dying game, boos rang out around the historic venue.
They came in great numbers - all 73,749 of them - to the Maracana expecting feast, not famine.
So they registered their displeasure, not towards Pogba but the spectacle itself.
In the latter stages, the game inevitably opened up and developed ragged, fraying edges and either team might have snatched an unlikely victory, with the contest resembling an end-of-season NBA game with both sides out of contention for the play-offs.
But France are very much alive and kicking in this competition, a pertinent fact acknowledged by the warm ovation received from the grateful fans.
Spain and England are home with their tails between their legs, but the cockerels are crowing with increasing confidence.
The French topped the group and kept a clean sheet with a second-string defence. Deschamps has completed his first task with a minimum of fuss.
The Maracana deserved a better contest, but that could come at a later date for France. The dark-horses tag is dead. They are legitimate candidates now.
But Deschamps' rested contenders must prove against Nigeria that his risk was worthwhile.
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.
— France coach Didier Deschamps, on making sweeping changes to his team