France are a team in transition, and so are fortunate to have landed a group that they know they can profit from. Though no one is to be underestimated, Les Bleus will fancy their chances of topping the group with three wins, but know that they have to beat Honduras if they are to have hopes of seeing it through.
Though not tipped to go far, the Hondurans will at least see the group as an opportunity to pick up points, with Ecuador possible yielding a victory and the right attitude maybe helping them get a point off Switzerland. Here will be very difficult for them, but getting the hardest game out the way first gives them a measure of what they’re likely to be up against, and they’ll look to move on to bigger and better things after the opener.
France will probably dominate; Didier Deschamps' 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 helps establish a rigid defensive system that will provide a solid foundation to build from. However Deschamps should see the group as an opportunity to let his young side off the leash and fulfil their potential as an attacking force and strike the right balance between going forward and remaining solid at the back.
Honduras will rely on group composure and concentration to repel the French, and Luis Fernando Suarez will expect his side to at least remain organised and keep themselves in the tie for as long as possible. Occasional sprinklings of British-based talent forms a solid core that Honduras hope will have the experience and ability to stifle Les Bleus as much as possible, but going forward doesn’t present many threats for France and so set-pieces could be crucial for the underdogs.
Deschamps won’t sacrifice his principles and will still ensure his side is difficult to beat, but from the off will encourage his midfield and particularly his attackers to create opportunities and get on the scoresheet to compensate for the absence of Franck Ribery; the Bayern Munich midfielder’s withdrawal will be felt, but France need to regroup and discover new talismans and talents in a group that may just afford them such a luxury. Deschamps is likely to experiment with his attack knowing that, regardless of the system, their quality ought to shine through and get the goals.
The right side of the Honduras defence boasts the most recognisable and talented names, a fact that would’ve given hope of dealing with Franck Ribery had the talented Bayern Munich winger been fit. Even so, Emilio Izaguirre is a full back who enjoys getting forward but has improved defensively during his time with Celtic, while Maynor Figueroa has been a consistent Premier League performer with both Wigan and Hull even with his switch to centre back from out wide.
France have a number of emerging talents ready to make their name on the big stage, and the group dynamic is changing as the old guard fades away to be replaced by the new breed. The most notable is Paul Pogba, who has reaped the rewards of a gutsy decision to leave Manchester United and is now a regular in a title-winning Juventus team. He has had to compete with experienced Italians Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio as well as Arturo Vidal, but the impression he has made makes him a starter for the national team too. A driving force with all the ability to be a France great, he could lead this fresh squad to new heights.
Another youngster who will be out to prove himself is Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann, whose opportunity could come here with Ribery ruled out; he made his name in Europe and showcased his talent in the Champions League group stage this season, now the world stage awaits.
Only a major shock would deny France a win here; Deschamps’ side are unpredictable, but at the least have the talent to escape this group and that would mean they need to beat Honduras. The experimental nature of his attacking options may mean Deschamps doesn’t quite win by the margins many would expect but, if everything clicks, they could run rampant.
Honduras know from their game against England that they can hold a big name to a draw, and will probably set out to do similar against France as a point would be a positive start to their campaign. Wins could come in other games but beating France would be a stretch, and so defensive solidity will be a priority as they look to give a good account of themselves in the second game of Group E
Ultimately a comfortable French win is expected, and they will have a chance to reshuffle without Ribery and perhaps integrate the replacements for their injured players into the squad. Honduras will look for solidity, professionalism and concentration as they try and shut France out for as long as possible an claim the unlikeliest of points. However it will probably be too much for them, and France will be reassured in Ribery’s absence by comfortable success here.
Prediction: France 5-0 Honduras