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Benzema runs riot as 'new' France enjoy win over Honduras

AS AS 16/06/2014 Juan Jiménez
Karim Benzema was at the centre of France's win over Honduras. © LUIS ACOSTA (AFP) Karim Benzema was at the centre of France's win over Honduras.

France are in the race. Strong, with a spring in their step and, in Karim Benzema, boasting a fabulous player in brilliant form, they began their World Cup campaign with a win over an inferior Honduras. But that’s not the most significant thing: France are playing with confidence and, for the first time in years, perhaps since a generation ready for retirement claimed an unexpected place in the final at Germany 2006, they can legitimately consider themselves contenders.

Aided by the (deserved) sending-off of Wilson Palacios, they settled the encounter at the crucial moment shortly before half time, Benzema converting a penalty clumsily conceded by Palacios. A quarter of an hour earlier, he had got himself involved in a scuffle with Paul Pogba, who also flirted with a red card. Then he barged the Juventus midfielder over in the area. The opening goal from Benzema’s determined spot-kick saw heads go down among Luis Fernando Suárez’s men, who had battled to stay alive going into the break and had survived two efforts against the post (from Blaise Matuidi and Antoine Griezmann), as well as the good runs of the French team’s driving force, Mathieu Valbuena, who put in an excellent display.

Didier Deschamps, coach of Les Bleus, is building a team of no little presence. His three midfielders win back ball after ball, have plenty of running in them and also pop up in the opposition box. That lends plenty of physical stature to France, who put on a convincing display and even began to enjoy themselves. They were not made to suffer in the slightest, and that’s a big deal in the first game of a World Cup. Indeed, there was no need for almost everything that came after their second goal, a collaboration between Benzema and Honduras keeper Noel Valladares. The first ‘technology goal’ in history.

Honduras, who brought very little to the game, had no response. What's more, and as France had feared, their physicality during some passages of play was excessive, leaving the legs of the French players somewhat exposed. Deschamps, who also spoke the same language as a player, was more than alive to the situation and ordered his charges to drop down a gear to avoid complications. Meanwhile, Benzema hit the third with another lovely piece of play. He finally appears to have found the perfect balance between style and substance. France’s well-constructed play – with Mathieu Debuchy popping up effectively from right-back, the midfielders covering every blade of grass and the welcome involvement of Griezmann – ends up with his magic touch. Benzemais their artist, and he has come into Brazil 2014 in seriously inspired form. Watch out for France.

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