5 Things for France Fans to Look Forward to in Wake of Win vs. Honduras
France opened their FIFA World Cup account with a 3-0 win over Group E minnows Honduras in Porto Alegre. Under pressure to perform in Brazil, Karim Benzema rose to the occasion to score twice and play a big role in all three goals at Estadio Beira-Rio on Sunday.
With three points finally under their belt after an opening win—the first time Les Bleus have managed to win their first game in the tournament in 16 years—confidence is now high. Yes, it was “only Honduras” and the French needed Wilson Palacios to be sent off before finally opening the scoring through Benzema’s penalty, but you can only beat what is put in front of you.
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
That is what France did and they can now approach Friday’s clash with Switzerland in Salvador with growing optimism.
Here are five reasons why French fans should be looking forward to the clash at Arena Fonte Nova and the final Group E meeting with Ecuador.
Benzema is the biggest positive to have come out of the Honduras victory by far. Prior to the tournament, the biggest question was whether or not the Real Madrid man could handle the weight of expectation on his shoulders with no Franck Ribery around to share the burden.
The 26-year-old is ready to step up. Benzema showed that by dominating an aggressive Honduran side, but that does not mean he can now rest on his laurels for the next two matches.
31 - @Benzema has scored his first goal in a major tournament (EURO + Coupe du Monde) with his 31st shot. Penalty.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 15, 2014
Although it was a fantastic World Cup debut for Benzema—played one and scored two—the French No. 10 still has a long way to go to emulate the likes of Just Fontaine as many have suggested he is capable of doing.
The goals were his first in a major international tournament and Benzema’s confidence continues to soar since he broke a 1,222-minute goal drought back in October.
Winnable Games vs. Switzerland and Ecuador
Not only will Benzema’s upturn in form boost France fans heading into the two final group games, but Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Ecuador will have also encouraged Les Bleus.
Until Haris Seferovic’s dramatic late winner, it looked as if the Swiss were going to have to settle for a point. Neither team showed enough during that encounter to suggest that Didier Deschamps’ men will have too much trouble in seeing them off and should now be targeting a win over Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side.
After that, they could feasibly dispose of Ecuador too and finish top of Group E with maximum points. One step at a time, though.
Added Maturity from France in Future
What was most striking apart from Benzema’s exuberance and the successful use of goal-line technology in the 3-0 win over Honduras was the maturity of this France side. For a team with so many young and relatively inexperienced players, they played—for the most part, anyway—like seasoned World Cup campaigners.
Paul Pogba will perhaps need a quiet word from Deschamps regarding his lashing out at Palacios—who appeared intent on getting himself sent off as quickly as possible—but otherwise it was a very solid performance.
The unity displayed by this side at present is impressive and highly encouraging, but it will be interesting to see how they respond when faced with adversity in the future.
Defensive Changes from Deschamps
Despite the excellent opening victory over Honduras, one or two minor issues were exposed to Deschamps during the game.
The most obvious of those is that the central defensive partnership of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho, although not breached by Los Catrachos, is not as solid as the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship-winning coach was hoping.
Bringing Laurent Koscielny in for Varane is a possible change that Deschamps is contemplating ahead of the Switzerland encounter. Lucas Digne could also replace Patrice Evra in order to give Les Bleus greater width.
Singing La Marseillaise
Aside from the game, only one thing was missing for the France fans in Porto Alegre: The national anthem.
French national anthem fails on PA system in Port Alegre - that'll teach Platini to challenge FIFA.— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) June 15, 2014
The public address system failed at Estadio Beira-Rio, per this tweet from the Press Association's Martyn Ziegler in Brazil. Therefore, there were no pre-match national anthems. That did not stop the French supporters present from belting out La Marseillaise during the second half, though.
It was a fantastic noise to hear and a sign that the travelling contingent are well and truly behind their team after years of tenuous support because of the national team’s malaise. They will be looking forward to joining their heroes in singing France’s anthem pre-match against the Swiss in Salvador.