Karim Benzema scored twice as France comfortably swept Honduras aside 3-0 in their opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Real Madrid striker also played a pivotal part in his side’s other goal – his shot that came back off the post before bouncing over the line via Honduras keeper Noel Valladares prompted the first successful use of goal-line technology.
Bernebau team-mate Raphael Varane kept a clean sheet at the heart of Les Bleus’ defence, while Real Sociedad striker Antoine Griezmann replaced Olivier Giroud up front and gave a good account of himself as he featured throughout.
Former Villarreal midfielder Rio Mavuba also participated at Porto Alegre’s Estadio Beira-Rio, coming on in place of Yohan Cabaye after 65 minutes.
It had been 16 years since the French won their opening match at the finals, which ironically came in their home tournament. They enjoyed the majority of first-half play in their first Group E match of 2014 and twice hit the bar through Blaise Matuidi, via a strong hand from Valladares, and a Griezmann header from just six yards out.
A real flashpoint sparked as the break approached. With Paul Pogba and Wilson Palacios tussling for the ball on the ground, the Frenchman appeared to kick out at his opponent much to the anger of the Honduran bench. In the end, to Pogba’s relief, both players were shown a yellow card.
Minutes later the same two players were involved in the game-changing moment. Yohan Cabaye’s ball into the area resulted in Palacios bundling Pogba over in the area, and Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci had no choice but to brandish a second yellow card to the Stoke City midfielder – reducing the Central Americans to 10 men for the second half.
Benzema coolly despatched of the penalty and was involved in the second shortly after the break. Another diagonal ball from Cabaye was volleyed across the goal by the Real striker, the ball rebounded across the goal line off the post before being fumbled backwards by the scrambling Honduras keeper. After a slight delay and bout of confusion, the new GoalControl system revealed that the ball had indeed crossed the line and went down as an own goal.
After Matuidi hit the side-netting as Didier Deschamps’ men were far more superior, they wrapped the game up with 18 minutes remaining. The impressive Mathieu Valbuena pulled a free kick back to Mathieu Debuchy on the edge of the area, his strike deflected through the crowded box and broke kindly for Benzema who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
It was a very comfortable start for the 1998 winners, who have either reached the final or gone out at the group stage over the last four competitions.
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