Honduras headed into their opening match of Group E play looking to play spoilers against 2014 World Cup sleepers, France. Instead, they looked every bit the heavy underdogs they were amongst bettors.
Despite playing plucky defense and enduring a barrage of early near misses by Les Bleus in the early goins, the levee eventually broke after a boneheaded second yellow by Wilson Palacios in the box gave the French a penalty. The midfielder, who plays for Stoke City of the Barclays Premier League, had previously been carded after making no earnest attempt at the ball during an entanglement with French star Paul Pogbga. After Pogba was stepped on intentionally, he retaliated against Palacios, who's continued selfish play and card-induced early departure left Los Catrachos a man down the entire second half.
French striker Karim Benzema proved more than in form converting a PK to put France up for good and then following that up in the 72nd with a difficult angled strike to expand the French lead to three goals. Benzema plays his club football for vaunted Real Madrid in Liga BBVA in Spain and was amongst the best on the pitch in the Sunday afternoon affair.
Ohio State alum Roger Espinoza had several nice touches playing from the left side of the midfield, but often had little in the way of help. The Hondurans had but one or two offensive opportunities with legs in the second half, and even including a few shots sent on a wing and a prayer, their attempts on French keeper (and captain) Hugo Lloris were never particularly concerning. Benzema had near double digit shots (7) by his lonesome and the aggressive confidence demonstrated on the pitch by France was a far departure from the shattered locker room which sunk their 2010 World Cup aspirations in South Africa.
Though ultimately not a sequence of consequence, France's second goal proved to be the first usage of new goal line technology which determines when a ball has entirely crossed a goal line. Even upon review, it was unclear to the naked eye whether the ball ever truly crossed the line or not after it was inadvertently redirected by Honduran keeper Noel Valladares into the goal. The technology was definitive, however, that it had.
Honduras will more than have their work cut out for them with with matches still looming against Ecuador, who lost in latest point in regulation in World Cup group play history, and Switzerland, who find themselves on the winning side of that ledger. Though they were never favored to advance out of a non-favorable draw, the three-score goal differential with two additional quality opponents to go yet make that an even taller task.
France: Hugo Lloris; Patrice Evra, Mamadou Sakho, Raphaël Varane, Mathieu Debuchy; Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye (Rio Mavuba 65'), Paul Pogba (Moussa Sissoko 58'); Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena (Olivier Giroud 78').
Goals: Karim Benzema 45' (PEN), Noel Valladares 48' (OG), Karim Benzema 72'.
Honduras: Noel Valladares; Emilio Izaguirre, Maynor Figueroa, Víctor Bernárdez (Osman Chávez 46'), Brayan Beckeles; Roger Espinoza, Luis Garrido, Wilson Palacios, Andy Najar (Jorge Claros 58'); Carlo Costly, Jerry Bengtson (Óscar García 45').
Red cards: Wilson Palacios (43').