France crushed Honduras in the battle of Porto Alegre on Sunday, notching three goals in a fantastic display of pass-and-move football.
Karim Benzema gave Les Bleus the lead just before half-time by converting a penalty, then hooked a finish onto the post in the second period that the goalkeeper carried over the line. He sealed it himself with a ruthless strike into the roof of the net, though, he officially misses out on the hat-trick.
Formations and XIs
France lined up in a 4-3-3 formation boasting no true wingers. Antoine Griezmann played from the left, Mathieu Valbuena from the right and Mathieu Debuchy got the nod at right-back.
Honduras went with a bold 4-4-2, allowing both Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson to play up front ahead of a deep-set eight-man defensive system consisting of two banks of four.
Stubborn and Aggressive
Honduras appeared as advertised: careful and negative in their approach, direct and athletic on the attack and ferocious in the challenge.
Their 4-4-2 shell sat in a low block and committed only four players to attack on counters, with the two strikers surging forward ahead of the wide midfielders, Roger Espinoza (left) and Andy Najar (right).
France found it impossible to utilise any space behind the line because it sat so deep, with Honduras successfully keeping all of the play in front of them and getting numbers into every soft spot.
France, on the other hand, produced the most free-flowing, fluid performance we've seen in the tournament so far.
Valbuena played nominally from the right but popped up everywhere, largely leaving the flank clear for Debuchy to hurtle down. Griezmann came in off the left and dropped into opportunistic pockets of space where possible, and Benzema dropped in and played, almost, like a nine-and-a-half at times.
Matching Benzema into a system similar to the one he excelled in for Real Madrid this past season is a wise move, and the prodigiously talented forward is at his best when contributing to buildup play.
Lethal finisher he may be, but he's a creator too.
Slingshot Central Midfielders
The most impressive part of France's free-flowing 4-3-3 was their slingshotting of outside central midfielders (in this case Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi) into the wide areas to create overloads.
For example, on the right, Debuchy would fire forward and pick out Pogba accelerating out of midfield, while on the left, Matuidi would often filter left—as he does for Paris Saint-Germain—and play ahead of Evra from the touchline, with Griezmann dropping inside.
Every time they sensed a chance to propel a player into a pocket of space and create a three vs. two they did so.
France got around Honduras' banks of four with regularity using this method, with Debuchy in particular a clear and obvious threat hitting the byline. Les Bleus struck the bar twice before Benzema finally tucked away a penalty, then scored two more in the second half.
The game finished as a contest once Wilson Palacios was sent off, and Honduras continued to tackle firmly, push their luck and go in studs-up on France's stars.
They fell into a 4-4-1 shape with Oscar Boniek Garcia subbed in on the right-hand side, conceded even more ground and barely touched the ball. WhoScored.com clocked them at 28 percent possession by the time the final whistle blew.
France played an exhibition match for the last half-hour. The major question emerging from the game: Will they play so openly against bigger, better sides?
Tactical Man of the Match: Tough to pick as six were incredible, but it's Karim Benzema.
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