France vs. Honduras: 6 Things We Learned
PARIS—France got their FIFA World Cup campaign off to a fantastic start with a straightforward 3-0 win over Group E minnows Honduras in Porto Alegre.
With the pressure on, Benzema delivered one of his most accomplished performances to date for the national team, while his teammates were mature and assured as Honduran tempers frayed as the game went on.
Los Catrachos’ Wilson Palacios saw red before half time after accumulating two yellow cards in tussles with France's Paul Pogba. Benzema coverted the spot-kick, with Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares credited with France’s second after goal-line technology ruled that he had carried the ball over the line.
8 - #FRA have won 8 of their last 10 games (34 goals for, 5 against). Serene.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 15, 2014
Having seen Switzerland score a dramatic late winner against Ecuador, Deschamps was be delighted with his side’s performance. However, there is still room for improvement and Les Bleus know that they will need to build on a solid first showing in time for next Friday’s clash with the Swiss.
"This is a very good start. We've had good times during our preparation, but this is competition, Deschamps told TF1 shortly after the final whistle. "Winning today is a very good start. We will enjoy this victory... 3-0 win in the World Cup, because it's never easy."
"We have been patient. We had our chance and hit the bar twice in the first period. We did well. Pleasure is total in football when there is victory. Congratulations to the players."
Here are six things we learned from France's comfortable 3-0 win over Honduras.
Goal-Line Technology Works
It was a match that included plenty of talking points, but the key moment in France’s 3-0 win over Honduras came in the 48th minute when Benzema thought that he had volleyed Les Bleus into a two-goal lead.
The Real Madrid man’s brilliant effort came back off the far post, but Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares carried the ball over the line. Goal-line technology was called into action and was used to confirm the goal, a first in World Cup history.
Noel Vallardes (37 years and 43 days old) is the oldest player to score an own goal in the World Cup (passing Zubizarreta)— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) June 15, 2014
What’s more, the call was correct and proved that the method does have a place in football at the highest level.
Benzema Comes of Age
Prior to the match in Porto Alegre, the focus was on Benzema and whether he would be able to immediately take responsibility at the highest level for France.
One of Les Bleus’ best players on the night at Estadio Beira-Rio, the 26-year-old finally appears to be ready to deliver for his country when they need him most.
Without a goal in a major international tournament prior to the game, Benzema took both his penalty and venomous second half finish well. Considering the confidence he had approaching the game thanks to a run of five goals in six games for France, he will feel as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders with that clinical showing.
Honduras Ill Discipline Their Undoing?
Although they were thoroughly outclassed eventually, Honduras were able to hold France goalless until the stroke of half-time. Wilson Palacios received a second yellow card for his foul on Paul Pogba and that was the moment that Los Catrachos lost their grip on the game.
Wilson Palacios is the 2nd Honduran player to get sent off in World Cup history, after Gilberto Yearwood (06.24.1982 vs Yugoslavia)— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) June 15, 2014
Once Benzema tucked away the spot kick, there was likely going to be no way back for Honduras one man light. Palacios—who should know better considering his experience—looked as if he was looking for his red card.
That ill discipline will be the CONCACAF representatives’ downfall in Brazil and not their limited talent.
Valbuena Underlines His Key Status
France’s Mathieu Valbuena continued to underline his key role in Didier Deschamps’ team with another superlative performance in Porto Alegre.
The Olympique de Marseille man endured a disappointing club campaign, but goes from strength to strength at international level. The 29-year-old was instrumental once more as Les Bleus capitalised on their one-man advantage to punish a ragged Honduras side.
2 - #FRA have already scored more goals at the 2014 World Cup than they did in the 2010 edition (1). Transformed.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 15, 2014
Benzema is the talisman of this France side, but Valbuena’s ability to consistently link up with him as well as they did at Estadio Beira-Rio will be crucial to their future hopes.
Honduras Expose French Defensive Frailties
Although Honduras did not threaten Hugo Lloris too often on the night—rarely in fact—Los Catrachos did demonstrate that France are vulnerable at the back.
Raphael Varane—who was preferred to Laurent Koscielny—partnered vice-captain Mamadou Sakho in central defence and the young and relatively inexperienced pair looked short of the necessary authority required to keep a team with greater quality than Honduras quiet.
Once or twice Sakho—in particular—looked ill at ease with being the most seasoned of the talented pair. Although it is no doubt a partnership for the future, Deschamps will have noted that hesitancy and could bring Koscielny in against Switzerland next Friday.
France's Young Inexperience Shows
Overall, it was an extremely mature performance from a young and relatively inexperienced France side. Senior players such as Valbuena, Mathieu Debuchy, Patrice Evra and Blaise Matuidi put in exemplary performances and managed to stay calm as the game’s temperature rose at times with tempers fraying.
However, one moment will stick out in Deschamps’ memory post-match and that was the flashpoint between Pogba and Palacios.
The Honduran was reckless with his challenge and the young Frenchman’s reaction was understandable, but the Juventus star must learn to control this temper in future because—at this level—games can turn on moments like that.
Thankfully this one did not, thanks to some intelligent refereeing from Brazilian Sandro Meira Ricci, who instead dished out two yellow cards. Palacios—a player who should know far better—got his comeuppance shortly after when he conceded the penalty, but Pogba cannot afford for that sort of incident to repeat itself later in the group stage or possibly in the latter stages.