FOUR YEARS after a disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa, France go into this years tournament full of optimism.
They begin their quest for their second crown with a winnable game against Honduras and will be fully expecting to defeat their CONCACAF opponents.
France were very fortunate to qualify for Brazil though. They finished behind Spain in the European Qualifying round before losing 2-0 to Ukraine in the first leg of the play-off. A 3-0 win in France ensured their participation at this summer’s tournament and expectation is as high as ever.
Indeed their team coach in Brazil has a slogan which reads:’Impossible is not French’. A quote attributed to Napoleon.
Honduras go into the game with a reputation of being a bruising and physical side, with their recent draw with England in their warm-up game coming under heavy criticism.
In the last week the French national boss Didier Deschamps has upset their opponents by saying: “Honduras have the aptitude of physical combat”.
Roger Espinoza replied by saying: “As Honduras is a small team, they say that we are going to be tough and with this they are inciting the referees to focus on Honduras and give us the cards.”
If Honduras do decide to continue their rough tactics against Les Bleus then French forward Olivier Giroud is ready: ”
“I like the contact and the physical battle,” he said. “It is an asset for me against English defences.”
Olivier Giroud is expected to lead the attack with Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena beside him in a three-man attack. Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane are expected to line-up in central defence.
Honduran coach Luis Fernand Suarez has to decide who will play on the right-wing with Martin Chavez, Boniek Garcia and Andy Najar his options.
Earlier this year France upset their Group E opponents by producing and airing a programme which criticised the countries football and it’s crowd violence. Titled ‘Les miserables du Honduras’ the Honduran people haven’t forgotten about the episode and has served as motivation for the Central Americans.
“There will be a bit of rancour for us in the match against France. We will give our all to show that we are not ‘miserable’. They will see what we can do.” Forward Jerry Bengtson comments epitomised the mood around the camp.
France go into the game as heavy favourites however they will know not to underestimate Honduras due to their recent World Cup woes. In two of the last three World Cup tournaments – 2002 and 2010 – they were knocked out in the Group Stage. Indeed they were also lucky to go through in 2006 after winning only one group game. They recovered to reach the final and will be hoping to spring a surprise again this time around.
1) France’s only win in their last nine World Cup group matches came in 2006 against Togo. Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry scored the goals to ensure France finished group runners-up to Switzerland.
2) Les Bleus have only scored one goal from open play in their last six World Cup games.
3) Since lifting the trophy in 1998, France have failed to score in all three World Cup openers, losing 1-0 to Senegal in 2002 and subsequently drawing 0-0 twice.
4) The injured Franck Ribery was France’s five-goal top scorer in the qualifying campaign, and also provided an unrivalled six assists in 10 games.
5) Karim Benzema has scored six goals in as many games for France since ending a 15-match goal drought at international level.
1) Honduras have failed to score in their last four World Cup games.
2) Their only win in the last seven games was 2-1 at home to a below-strength Venezuela in March.
3) Luis Fernando Suarez’s side have won just one of their last 11 games outside Honduras – against Mexico in September.
4) Jerry Bengtson was Honduras’ top scorer in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with nine goals in 12 games.
5) Ten members of the squad were selected for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Sakho, Varane, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi, Cabaye; Valbuena, Giroud and Benzema
Honduras: Valladares; Izaguirre, Beckeles, Bernárdez, Figueroa; Najar, Garrido, Palacios, Espinoza; Bengtson and Costly