World Cup Blog: French foil physical foes
07:30 16 June 2014
France 3 Honduras 0
After the furore caused by France’s team mutiny four years ago, all eyes were on Didier Deschamps and his talented side in their group opener against Honduras.
The French public were left distraught by the national team’s antics after they refused to train – supposedly in support of “Le Sulk” Nicolas Anelka - in South Africa in 2010.
France failed to rouse themselves sufficiently for the global tournament, losing two games and drawing one, including an inept defeat to hosts South Africa.
France’s behaviour made headlines across the world on the front and back pages. Four years on and Honduras coach Luis Suarez clearly set his men up to rile their lofty opponents - just as he had done in Miami against England in the build-up to this tournament.
Ten players from that side, which played against England, started this Group E match in Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. It was a clear attempt to blunt the numerous goalscoring threats Les Bleus possess.
At every turn by France’s dominant attackers – Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Mathieu Valbuena, in particular – were stunted by tactics more commonly used by boxers.
The Honduran tackles were followed through more often not by a trailing leg. But it was the trailing leg of Pogba that nearly saw him sent off midway through the first half. Honduras were the spark and they were trying to ignite France.
Pogba, in a scuffle with Wilson Palacios, kicked out at the ex-Tottenham man before wrapping his right leg round his opponent. Both lay in a heap on the ground, both received just a yellow card.
This, though, was the only incidence where France seemed to lose their cool. But for all their possession and efforts on goal they were still on level terms with Honduras.
However, two minutes from the break, Karim Benzema scored his first from the spot.
Palacios was again involved after he barged Pogba in the back inside the box. The burly Honduran was given a second yellow for his troubles.
You could say frustration had got the better of one of Honduras’ most experienced players, but it was more likely a clear effort to deter the notoriously hot-headed Pogba – a key performer in this side at just 21 years of age.
Down to ten men Honduras could not cope with France’s movement and creativity.
Benzema thumped a volley against the far post on 48 minutes and the ball ricocheted across goal and Noel Valladares knocked the ball into his own net.
Goal-line technology was called upon and it was put down as a Valladares own goal.
Then Benzema hit his eighth goal in seven internationals – not bad for a forward often criticised for his scoring return – to complete the victory with a superb strike inside the Honduras area on 72 minutes.
Throughout proceedings France had looked excellent in attack and, frankly, outclassed their Honduran counterparts.
With Switzerland up next Deschamps may want to re-consider the high defensive line he asks his side to play.
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side scored a stunning winner in the day’s earlier game on the counter attack against Ecuador in their 2-1 success.