Benzema bags brace as France pounds short-handed Honduras

Karim Benzema scored twice and forced the third to lead France past a disjointed and 10-man Honduras 3-0 and announce their return to form on Sunday.

Honduras’ Wilson Palacios was sent off late in the first half for a second bookable offense, allowing the Real Madrid star to score the winner from the spot. Benzema would then make the play that led to a Noel Valladares own goal; then added a capper late in the second half.

”Winning 3-0 at a World Cup isn’t easy,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. ”(The players should) savor the moment, there’s nothing more wonderful.” We did well. Pleasure is total in football when there is victory. Congratulations to the players."

It was an easy afternoon out for the French in the sunshine of Porto Alegre, with a woeful Honduran side unable to break their attacking pressure, essentially allowing France keeper Hugo Lloris to have what amounted to a day off between the posts. The same could not be said for his Honduran counterpart Valladares: he endured a torrid day and would end up chucking the ball into his own net in a play that forced the World Cup’s first serious test of new goal-line technology.

France showed they were a threat early, with Blaise Matuidi forcing Valladares to palm his shot onto the crossbar after excellent service from Mathieu Valbuena created the chance. Crossbars and posts became something of a theme for the French as young tyro Antoine Griezmann would ping out off the bar as well seven minutes later. Griezmann, in particular, was far too hot for the slow and aging Hondurans to handle. Time and time again, he would sail cutting passes from the wings to unleash Valbuena or Matuidi, showing that he is a talent to watch.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

The key moment came when Palacios and Paul Pogba tangled in the 28th minute. Palacios appeared to tramp on Pogba, who then retaliated by kicking out. A less charitable ref might have shown red, but Sandro Ricci only cautioned the two, and it was probably correct on the balance.

But Palacios, apparently not learning his lesson, then put an elbow into the back of Pogba inside the penalty area in the 43rd minute. Pogba threw himself onto the turf in theatrical fashion, but the foul was needless and stupid from Palacios. Ricci had no more use for charity: he pointed directly to the spot, then hauled out both cards to send the Honduran to the showers. Benzema would make no mistake from the spot, blasting the ball high and hard into the roof of the net, and from that moment on the game was over.

Benzema would then force the second goal, blasting a shot off the far post that Vallardes tried to keep out, but instead ended up palming it over the line. Replays seemed to indicate the ball had not crossed the line, but the buzzer went off, and the ref gave it, much to the consternation of manager Luis Suarez. The irony was that Valladares didn’t need to play the ball as the shot was coming straight back out. It was his intervention — and subsequent fumble of the ball – that iced the game for the French.

TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

From that point on, Le Bleus simply strolled, over-elaborating on passing moves and at times simply showing off. Honduras, not known for their class, responded with a series of tough if not outright dirty tackles, and Ricci had a busy spell calming matters down.

Benzema would then exploited a rebound off a free kick to power a shot from an acute angle right through Valladares and end the contest in the 72nd minute. Mathieu Debuchy slammed a piledriver in that was gamely cleared off the line, but only as far as Benzema. He made no mistake.

France next face their European neighbors Switzerland at Salvador while Honduras and Ecuador clash in Curitiba. On the balance, it looks like the European nations will progress out of this woefully weak group.

The game had an unusual start as the stadium tannoy failed, forcing the match to begin without the traditional singing of anthems. The French players, confused, remonstrated with Ricci, but the crowd in the seats took up the cause, singing La Marseillaise after Benzema sunk the penalty kick.

”It’s my first World Cup and I think we’re all satisfied with the result,” Benzema said. ”It was important to win this match.”

"I’m very happy and very proud. But the most important thing is winning. Some judge me on my number of goals but for me, the way I play counts a lot. "