The second match for Group E of the 2014 FIFA World Cup had the expected end result, with France earning a dominating 3-0 win over Honduras. The journey to that ending did not go quite as anyone expected, though.
The game opened with speculation over whether playing Patrice Evra at left-back could cause problems for the French, given his history. A bad challenge in the eighth minute that resulted in the game’s first yellow card did neither Evra nor France any favors. The French started the game a bit like Uruguay in their loss on Saturday, hanging back from the ball and losing possession with poorly executed passes.
Honduras controlled and possessed the ball much better than France in the first 15 or 20 minutes, and a draw or even a Costa Rica-style win suddenly looked possible for Los Catrachos. Unfortunately, their rough playing style began to catch up with them, as foul after foul gave the French numerous opportunities. Mathieu Valbuena took the brunt of those, earning three free kicks for France in the first 15 minutes, but Les Bleus were unable to capitalize, putting their shots wide and high.
Paul Pogba earned the second yellow card for the French side in the 25th minute for lashing out at Wilson Palacios, while Palacios was given Honduras’ first warning for stepping on Pogba. France continued to create chances on goal, but could not manage to put the ball in the net. Meanwhile, Honduras used their superior size and strength to win balls in the air and force France to pass through the middle and turn the ball over.
The game basically ended for Honduras in the 42nd minute—Wilson Palacios fouled Pogba in the box on a French corner kick, earning a second yellow for himself and a penalty kick for France. Palacios was booked and sent off of the field, and Karim Benzema converted the penalty in the 44th minute to give France a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Honduras started the second half with just 10 men, bringing in Óscar Boniek García at half time for Jerry Bengtson to change to a more defensive lineup and try to hold the French to just the one goal. They were unsuccessful in that aim, though, as Benzema scored again in the 47th minute, knocking the ball off the opposite goal post and the backside of goalkeeper Noel Valladares. Valladares tried to recover the ball, but the brand new goal-line technology for the 2014 World Cup confirmed that the ball had fully crossed the line. The goal was credited to Valladares as an own goal, however, and not to Benzema.
The yellow cards continued to roll out of the official’s pocket, with Yohan Cabaye receiving one in the 46th minute and Boniek Garcia being warned in the 52nd minute. Coach Didier Deschamps saw the danger of having so many bookings out on the field, pulling Pogba in the 56th minute and Cabaye in the 64th. Patrice Evra, who had calmed down quite a bit after his initial card limped back from a play a few minutes later, but remained in the game.
Valbuena was fouled again by Honduras in the 70th minute. The free kick was played back to Antoine Griezmann, whose intial shot ricocheted off of Evra and deflected wide right to Benzema. The French striker buried the ball in the top of the netting over Valladares’ head, to give France a dominating 3-0 lead, taking the top spot in Group E away from Switzerland until their World Cup match takes place on Friday. FIFA officials will debate later whether Benzema’s second goal was truly an own goal or if he should be credited with a hat trick. Evra was injured on the scoring play and carried off on a stretcher, but returned to play a few minutes later.
Valbuena headed to the bench in the 77th minute in favor of Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, but France would not find the goal again. Honduras would not find the net at all, despite several desperate attempts, and are scoreless in their last four World Cup matches.
Luis Garrido added to the pile of yellows in the 82nd minute, and France held their 3-0 lead for the final 10 minutes of the game, taking the win on the final whistle of the second Group E match for the 2014 World Cup. France sits at the top of the group on goal differential over Switzerland, and Honduras falls to last place, in danger of repeating their dismal performance at the 2010 tournament.
Commentary by Christina Jones