Published On: Tue, Jun 17th, 2014

Les Bleus for Benzema, as he bags a Brace – France 3 -0 Honduras Match Report

Football: Breaking Tackle, Pads On, Laces Out: World Cup

By: Okari Stephen Wambunya

 

France, winners of the World Cup in 1998, kicked off their 2014 tournament against Central American team Honduras. Previously before the start of the match, Didier Deschamps believes a French training session may have been spied on by a drone, which flew over their base in Ribeirao Preto earlier this week. This World Cup clash would be the first time the two teams have met. The French had real forces in midfield. Former Man United star Paul Pogba was likely to start alongside a midfield three consisting of Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi because that trio Didier Deschamps had at his disposal was flexible, fast and fluid. We would expect them to interchange positions frequently, yet keep the tactical shape and balance and alternate between attacking and defending. The current Juventus man is an all-action performer and was the one, most likely to threaten the Honduras rearguard. Since 1998, the French have not scored in their opening game of a World Cup. Whereas, Honduras have not scored in their last four World Cup matches.

There were unusual scenes at the beginning of the game in Porto Alegre, as the teams lined-up waiting to hear their national anthems. However after a prolonged delay, no music was played and the players instead shook each other’s hands. What a peculiar situation, as the players were robbed of displaying their patriotism.
France left Honduras chasing shadows in the opening stages, as the French applied much of the early pressure. Les Bleus were dominating possession. Within 8 minutes, France got the first booking as Patrice Evra was late in challenge on Andy Najar. It was the former, who felt the effects as he had to limp off for treatment, but was soon back on the pitch.

Then there were two free-kicks from the same position, in a matter of moments. Firstly, Mathieu Valbuena’s delivery was cleverly played to Karim Benzema on the edge of the box, but his header into the danger area went wide. The second effort was more conservative as it was played into the centre, but Noel Valladares punched clear. An outstanding save from Valladares followed. A free-kick crossed into the box was very badly cleared to Blaise Matuidi inside the area, but his rising shot across goal was well tipped on to the bar and over. Honduras tactics were quite vicious. They were simply, to stop France playing, whether it was fouls or trips, they made them require treatment and broke up their flow. In the 22nd minute, Valbuena provided pace through the centre and linked up with Benzema, before the return pass fell loose for Yohan Cabaye who blasted wide from 25 yards out.

Soon after, Antoine Griezmann rose for a back post cross from Evra, but could only direct a header off the woodwork. France was going to score, as chances continued to present themselves to Les Bleus. Then a moment of madness from Pogba, who was very fortunate to still be on the field of play. Palacios’ challenge on the midfielder was malicious but after going to ground, the youngster kicked out on the Honduran. Momentum left France and Honduras regrouped. Yellow cards were shown to the both of them. Hugo Lloris wasn’t seeing much off the ball and was barely called into action, as half-time approached. Palacios received his marching orders as he again tangled with Pogba, this time inside the box, pushing the midfielder down following a cross into the penalty area. From 12 yards at the stroke of half-time, Karim Benzema finished the penalty brilliantly into the top corner. This deadlock breaker was likely to be the first of many goals for the French in this game.

We were straight into attacking action after the interval; on 49 minutes goal line technology caused a controversy over whether the ball had crossed the line. Karim Benzema’s strike across goal hit the post, but Valladares fumbled the ball over the line for an own goal before hurriedly clawing it back again. That was a hasty reaction. The technology showed the ball had crossed the line, and that would be the end of the debate, but the referee was left discussing the event with both managers before finally giving the goal. France led 2-0. France was relentlessly attacking, as Benzema and Valbuena went close to scoring a third goal. Past the hour mark, a low cross from the left by Griezmann found Matuidi at the near post, but he could only find the outside of the side netting with his shot.

In the 73rd minute, a corner was wonderfully worked to the edge of the box and saw a strike ricochet into the path of Karim Benzema, who rifled into the roof of the net. 3-0. Benzema could’ve scored a hat-trick but France’s second goal was credited as an own goal. Instead he bagged a brace. Honduras continued to foul recklessly and their challenges could’ve injured France’s players. France played the ball around in a slow tempo. They were running down the clock as their job was done and also to prevent any injuries, due to Cabaye and Pogba having to be substituted earlier on, because they suffered thigh and groin strains.

Benzema the Man of the Match showed killer instinct leading the line, as he took his chances superbly. Valbuena was dazzling on the right wing as he was a constant danger to Honduras’ defense with his energy and pace. His set-pieces were delivered with pin-point accuracy. He deservedly received a standing ovation as he was substituted in the 78th minute for Olivier Giroud. The X-factor Pogba performed admirably, alongside Matuidi who provided dynamism and Cabaye who sat deep and dictated matters. Griezmann showed potency on the left flank, providing genuine width and fulfilled his defensive responsibilities by tracking back well. France’s back four and Lloris hardly had much work to do, as Honduras barely left them vulnerable. With all respect, a true test of their ability will come against better opposition.

At full-time, there was a stark contrast of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ An efficient France side made their mark, as they overcame an atrocious strategy from Honduras to win 3-0 and go top of Group E along with Switzerland, who defeated Ecuador 2-1 earlier in the day.

By: Okari Stephen Wambunya

Watching, discussing & debating the World Cup – Please follow me on Twitter:

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Les Bleus for Benzema, as he bags a Brace – France 3 -0 Honduras Match Report
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