France’s 3-0 win over Honduras in one sentence: A victory for brain over brawn, as France out-passed and out-thought their physical (and at times reckless) opponents.
What we’ll remember: The moment we all thought the much-heralded goal-line technology had failed. Then we bowed at the feet of our new robot overlords.
1. France depends on Karim Benzema, and he delivered. With Franck Ribery sidelined through injury, even more pressure has been placed on the shoulders of Karim Benzema.
He can be a frustrating figure at times, demonstrated by his performance in last month’s Champions League final, when he passed up chance after chance against Atletico Madrid. But when he gets it right the result is explosive. That’s the best word to describe him at his best.
Some speculated whether Olivier Giroud should have started over the Real Madrid striker against Honduras, citing his superior link-up play and team work. But Benzema possesses a presence that Giroud simply doesn’t have, and tends to find his form when it matters most.
France coach Didier Deschamps might be tempted to play both strikers in the same team, as he did in a number of the warm-up friendlies ahead of the World Cup. But in this form, Benzema is among the best strikers the sport has to offer.
2. Antoine Griezmann is more than an able deputy for Franck Ribery. When Franck Ribery was ruled out with a back injury for the duration of the World Cup many questioned how it would impact France’s chances.
Of course, without the Bayern Munich winger they are worse off, but Didier Deschamps is not without options to replace him, and the man who took his place against Honduras proved himself to be more than an able deputy.
Antoine Griezmann has come into the tournament on the back of an astonishing season for Real Sociedad, attracting attention from the European elite (Real Madrid are said to be interested). And the 23-year-old looks to have carried that form into the World Cup.
He was unfortunate not to find the net with a first-half header that smashed off the crossbar, and combined well with his creative partner Mathieu Valbuena all throughout the game.
3. Honduras’s 4-4-2 is old-fashioned and their physical approach has no place in the modern game. Luis Fernando Suarez is of a class you might call the ‘Old School.’ So is his Honduras side.
But his old-fashioned philosophy has let Honduras down. Their 4-4-2 system is out of date and ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the modern game. It’s not fluid enough, and permits very little movement between the lines of defense, midfield and attack.
Honduras’ physical approach will earn them few friends at the World Cup, with Suarez’s side somewhat fortunate to end the game with as many as 10 players. Some of their tackles were disgraceful.
Of course, Suarez has little in the way of quality to work with and has to find a way to make the best of what he has. But this approach only serves to hinder his team further.