Karim Benzema scored twice as France took a first step to restoring national pride by opening their 2014 World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over 10-man Honduras in Group E.
Les Bleus came into Brazil 2014 looking to erase the memory of their embarrassing showing at South Africa 2010 and were never threatened against the Central American side. They showed they can deal with the pressure of being a favourite.
The match at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre made history as a goal was confirmed for the first time at a World Cup by the new goal-line technology.
Playing the World Cup with their Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery injured at home, it took some time before France gained control of the match.
Once they did, the Real Madrid striker Benzema proved an unstoppable force for France, who crashed out of South Africa 2010 with just one point and one goal scored.
“It wasn’t easy playing against such an aggressive team but we remained patient and waited for our chances,” said French coach Didier Deschamps.
“It was a good start to the tournament for us.” Benzema opened the scoring with a 45th minute penalty, and he appeared to have tallied again three minutes after the re-start. But the goal was changed to an own-goal by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares after video review.
Benzema picked up his second goal in the 78th minute.
With Honduras electing just to pack their defence, France needed time to get through the Central Americans.
Valladares deflected Blaise Matuidi’s blast off the crossbar in the 15th minute. Les Bleus found only the crossbar again eight minutes later with a header by Antoine Griezmann.
Honduras rarely ventured forward and could not do anything against an under-worked French defence.
After Wilson Palacios clumsily took down Paul Pogba in the box in the 43rd minute for a penalty and his departure from the game, it was Benzema who gave France the lead. The Real Madrid striker blasted his spot-kick into the left side as Valladares dove the other way.
The second half was clearly one-way traffic for the French attack.
Benzema’s shot in the 48th minute was ruled as a goal for France by referee Sandro Ricci. The Brazilian asked for the goal-line technology to be implemented to confirm the score.
Benzema’s shot went off the far right post and back towards Valladares and off the Honduras keeper, who failed to bat the ball back into play before it crossed the line. And the video confirmed it was an own goal by Valladares.
It was the first time the new technology confirmed a goal at the World Cup.
After a number of unused French chances, Benzema struck again in the 72nd, hammering home a rebound from about 13 yards out to make it 3-0.
Benzema even had chances to make it a hat-trick but it would remain a brace.
Honduras are still looking for their first World Cup victory in their third finals appearance. And the Central Americans still haven’t scored a goal since 1982.