World Cup - France-Honduras matchpack: Fine without Franck?

Former champions France should put underdogs Honduras to the sword in their World Cup Group E opener in Porto Alegre on Sunday - but their penchant for self-destruction gives the Central Americans hope of an upset.

World Cup - France-Honduras matchpack: Fine without Franck?

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France's Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with team mates Paul Pogba (L) and Karim Benzema his goal against Jamaica during their friendly soccer at Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq June 8, 2014.

Les Bleus go into the campaign with a happier, more settled squad under coach Didier Deschamps and will aim to banish the memories of the 2010 tournament in South Africa, when the players revolted against Raymond Domenech and flew home in disgrace after a disastrous showing.

Those with longer memories will also recall their opener as reigning champions in 2002 against Senegal, who handed them an embarrassing defeat that led to an early exit.

On top of that the Hondurans - coached by Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez - reached Brazil in some style. They topped their group in the CONCACAF preliminaries, then won a famous victory away against Mexico in the Azteca stadium in the crucial qualifying game. In a relatively easy group which also includes Switzerland and Ecuador, both sides will be desperate to get their campaigns off to a winning start.


France lost star player Franck Ribery to a back problem earlier in the month, and Samir Nasri was left out of the squad entirely - but Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye, Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena form a hugely impressive creative force regardless. Didier Deschamps is expected to play a three-man midfield of Cabaye, Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. On the left, Antoine Griezmann or Benzema will be handed the unenviable task of filling in for Ribery; if it's Benzema, then Olivier Giroud will start. If Griezmann, Benzema will start as centre forward.

Honduras suffered a major blow before the tournament when Arnold Peralta was ruled out. The side will pin their hopes on the form and fitness of key midfielder Wilson Palacios, of Stoke City, while Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre was his nation's best player at the 2010 World Cup and has only improved since then. Strikers Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly are hardly household names, but scored 16 goals between them in 16 qualifiers.



Didier Deschamps (France): "[on Honduras's tough tackling approach] They have the aptitude for going into combat, we're expecting that. It's one of the characteristics of this team. I saw their last match against England. I also had the opportunity to talk with (Jamaica coach) Winfried Schaefer since they were in their (CONCACAF) qualifying group… This is the World Cup. Given the letter FIFA sent to all the teams (taking part) concerning the referees, I'm not worried about that. If anyone steps over the line, he will be sanctioned. It goes for them as it does for us."

Luis Fernando Suarez (Honduras): "People underestimate us, so we can do this... The group is evenly matched, there are going to be good possibilities for everyone... In the end, our ambition is to improve on what Honduras has done in the World Cup before. Our challenge is to get into the next round."

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"We know about the other teams in Group E – I know all the players in France, Switzerland and Ecuador. but France and Switzerland don't know much about us." - Honduras's star player Wilson Palacios


This will be the first ever international meeting between France and Honduras.

France have only won one of their last nine games in the World Cup group stages (2-0 v Togo in 2006).

Les Bleus have only scored one goal from open play in their last six games in this competition.

Franck Ribéry was France’s top scorer and assist provider during the qualifiers, with five goals and six assists in 10 games, play-offs included.

Honduras have failed to score in their last four World Cup games and bowed out of the 2010 edition without finding the net.

Jerry Bengtson was Honduras’ top scorer in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with nine goals in 12 games.

Since lifting the trophy in 1998, France have failed to score in all three World Cup openers, drawing two 0-0 and losing 1-0 to Senegal in 2002.

No European side benefited from more goals from substitutes than France (four) in World Cup 2014 qualification.


France 1-3, Honduras 12-1, Draw 4-1

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