World Cup Day 3: France-Honduras Notes

France vs. Honduras 

1st half:

*Through 15 minutes…

-the Hondurans have showed more aggressiveness than their opponents, feisty in 50-50 balls and sharply delivering passes between each other; overall, Los Catrachos have a little more energy in their movements

-France has slowly settled into this game, pushing the ball into the attacking third with intelligent passing and general on-ball skill–great control by the Frenchmen when having the ball at their feet; the team has leaned heavily towards the right flank, from which already a few crosses have originated, as well three free kicks (Benzema, for example, though in the center forward role, has drifted towards this area)

-the first close chance comes from a right-side cross, that bounces back to the top of the goalie box, where Blaise Matuidi collects the ball and fires a shot that the goalie barely gets a hand on, hitting the crossbar before going out for a corner

*Minutes 15-30…

-France has begun to use its height and size well, in a game progressively becoming more chippy; on the 26th minute, Paul Pogba engages in a struggle for the ball–who has so far dominated these kinds of plays–and gets nastily stomped on twice by Wilson Palacios while on the ground, to which Pogba violently retaliates with a kick (both players receive yellow cards)

-23rd minute: Pogba plays a smart ball towards the left wing, from which a cross comes that Antoine Griezmann heads off the crossbar

-25th minute: Les Bleus display a controlled counterattack, that concludes with a header sailing over the top of Honduran goal, a development that still includes positive signs of precise and cohesive passing combinations

*Last 15 minutes…

-the French back line has yielded few opportunities for Honduran attackers with utterly stout defensive play, as well as adding an ability to push the ball upfield; through one half, this unit has performed the best of any for France

-Benzema has underwhelmed in the first half of action, as his touch and awareness have been off–unlike his teammates behind him; furthermore, the striker has acted a tad selfishly and has not cooperated well with teammates up front

-Honduras will have to rely on counterattacking drives to have any chance of pressuring goal, but even then, French fullbacks have clogged attacks with deflections in this type of situation–another testament to the defense’s overpowering presence

-43th minute: Pogba is shoved in the back  and is thrown off the ball while in the goalie box, garnering a penalty attempt for his team (Palacios is also the culprit on this foul, getting a second yellow and forcing Honduras to play with 10 men)–Benzema coolly knocks it in (45′) to give France a 1-0 lead right before halftime

Celebrating after his penalty kick score, Benzema (10) played the striker position very efficiently. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Celebrating after his penalty kick score, Benzema (10) played the striker position very efficiently. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

-only minutes after a goal in stoppage time, France suffers a noteworthy setback: Yohan Cabaye gets booked, meaning two of the team’s three key center midfielders will play the second half with a yellow card to their name; moreover, Cabaye and Pogba will now have to make more judicious challenges and play cautiously in future games, as both of their skill sets are vital to France’s tournament prospects (keeping in mind that another yellow earns a suspension in the following match)


2nd half:

*First 15 minutes…

-France starts off the half composed, and after some connections in the midfield, a cross finds Benzema who smacks a shot off the post and seemingly into the goal; in the first true test of goal-technology, controversy remains as the ball may not have completely passed the goalie line, but nevertheless the goal stands (actually charged as an own goal by the Honduran goalkeeper) and hands the French a two-goal advantage

-rough and scrappy play continues to define 50-50 balls, as both sides have collectively accumulated six yellow cards in just the first 53 minutes (the game eventually ends with a total of seven yellows, a red, and 25 combined fouls)

-Honduras’s defense–lacking adequate support from midfielders–remains as porous as ever, leading to several more goal-scoring chances for Les Bleus as a result of their crafty ball movement, and especially on ground crosses slicing into the goalmouth

-coach Didier Deschamps makes the smart decision to sub out Pogba on the 57th minute, avoiding the risk of him playing with a yellow card, as well as resting the MF after having fulfilled the critical role of enforcer (strongly establishing both France’s physical and technical dominance)

*Minutes 60-75…

-perhaps the first mistake so far by the French back line creates a good look for an opposing attacker, yet even in this situation fellow defenders quickly close out and pressure the Honduran into an innocuous shot on goal

-winger Mathieu Valbuena smartly passes off a free kick on the flank to a teammate a the top of the goalie box, whose shot ricochets to Benzema, who clinically scores (72′) and attains a brace

Sakho (5) put forth a textbook defensive effort. (RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sakho (5) put forth a textbook defensive effort. (RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

*Last 15 minutes…

-left centerback Mamadou Sahko has in particular defended flawlessly and helped stifle any potential Honduran chances, his fantastic play becoming more and more evident through the course of the match; additionally, he showed the capacity late in the game to benefit the French offense with crisp, productive passes in the offensive third of the pitch

End-game thoughts: although French goal-scoring chances defined the flow of the game, it took most of the first half for Les Bleus to settle comfortably; after doing so, the team maintained its impeccable touch, made ball movement more fluid and inventive, and ultimately became more confident in terms of capitalizing on opportunities–of course, possessing a man-advantage helped tremendously as well, especially in the dominant second half performance

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