France started their World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over an extremely physical Honduras side in Porto Alegre on Sunday. Honduras came into the game looking to make up the deficit in technical quality by brute force, though that strategy backfired when Wilson Palacios was sent off and Les Bleus took the lead on the stroke of halftime before netting two more goals in the second half.
The victors made a surprisingly haphazard start to the match and initially struggled to break down Honduras' robust defensive structure. Luis Fernando Suárez's side was happy to commit tactical fouls and attempt to disrupt Les Bleus' attacking flow, and with the exception of a Blaise Matuidi chance that was tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Noel Valladares, they were rather impotent early on.
Midway through the first half, France rattled the woodwork for a second time when Antoine Griezmann leaped to head Patrice Evra's deep cross against the bar. The team grew ever more frustrated, and midfielder Paul Pogba was especially unimpressed with Honduras' physicality. He kicked out at Palacios after being repeatedly stamped on after 26 minutes, with both players lucky to escape with only yellow cards.
However, their personal feud didn't end there, and was reignited with significant consequences inside the final couple of minutes of the first half. Palacios barged the Frenchman over in the box and earned his second yellow card, as well giving away a penalty kick. Karim Benzema stepped up to stroke the ball into the top corner, giving a relieved France the lead on the stroke of halftime.
Any French fears that Honduras would make the second half as difficult as the first were allayed within three minutes of the restart, when goalline technology awarded its first ever World Cup goal. A close-range Benzema volley rebounded off the post and against the hand of Valladares, with the ball crossing the line before the embarrassed Honduras keeper had time to sweep it to safety.
France managed to add a third inside the final 20 minutes, when some penalty box pinball resulted in Benzema smashing the ball into the roof of the net via the fingertips of Valladares. From then on, coach Didier Deschamps was left hoping his players just emerged unscathed against their rather robust opponents, which they fortunately seemed able to do.
France: Lloris; Evra, Sakho, Varane, Debuchy; Matuidi, Cabaye (Mavuba 65'), Pogba (Sissoko 57'); Griezmann, Benzema, Valbuena (Giroud 78').
Goals: Benzema (pen. 45', 72'), Valladares (o.g. 48').
Honduras: Valladares; Izaguirre, Figueroa, Bernárdez (Chávez 46'), Beckeles; Espinoza, Garrido, Palacios, Najar (Claros 58'); Costly, Bengtson (García 46').
Red cards: Palacios (43').