Twenty-six years after this country’s senior men’s football team, then known as the Strike Squad, lost a crucial Fifa World Cup qualifying game to the United States (1-0), on home soil, former...
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France cruises past Ecuador
Porto Alegre—Karim Benzema scored twice and forced an own goal as France beat 10-man Honduras 3-0 in their World Cup Group E opener in Porto Alegre.
Les Bleus were comfortably the better side throughout the match, but did not score until Wilson Palacios conceded a 43rd-minute penalty that also earned him a second yellow card.
Benzema converted from the spot and rifled home a second after 72 minutes, his goals split by his part in the World Cup’s first ever affirmative use of goalline technology.
The Real Madrid striker’s first-time shot had clattered the woodwork only to be fumbled on the rebound by keeper Noel Valladares, with the GoalControl system awarding the goal amid some initial confusion.
As well as the three points, France will be just as happy to have departed without serious injury after 90 minutes of late tackles and physical intimidation from their limited opponents.
France wasted no time setting the pace, with Antoine Griezemann and Mathieu Valbuena both impressive.
Griezemann, making his first competitive start, had a fine chance to open the scoring in the sixth minute when he took a poor clearance on the chest and saw his goalbound effort blocked.
Valbuena and Mathieu Debuchy were enjoying plenty of joy down the right and the former’s cross caused Valladares to fumble.
Honduras invited pressure with a series of fouls that allowed Valbuena to send a series of testing free-kicks into the danger area.
Blaise Matuidi nearly scored from a half-cleared Valbuena delivery, controlling with his thigh then seeing a powerful shot brilliantly pushed against the bar by Valladares.
France went closer yet in the 23rd minute, Griezemann beating Maynor Figueroa to a Patrice Evra cross and heading against the crossbar.
The game could have changed moments later when Palacios tussled with Paul Pogba, the Honduran guilty of a couple of kicks at his opponent and Pogba retaliating by rashly flicking a leg out.
Both saw yellow cards, with Pogba particularly relieved.
After play resumed France’s flow had deserted them, with Benzema beginning to show frustration at his lack of clear opportunities.
Palacios rectified that just before half-time when he barged through the back of Pogba as he shaped to shoot, earning a second yellow card and conceding a penalty.
Benzema fired home to make it 1-0. Honduras reshuffled with two changes at the break but shipped a second inside three minutes.
It went down as an own-goal, Valladares palming fractionally over the line after Benzema’s powerful shot bounced back across goal off the inside of the post.
Honduras boss Luis Suarez seemed unhappy with the verdict but without good reason.
Amid repeated nasty challenges a third seemed inevitable, but Matuidi spurned a glorious chance shortly after the hour when slotting Evra’s pinpoint cross into the side netting.
Benzema then provided it with 18 minutes left.
Debuchy’s long-range drive did not make it through a crowd of bodies but fell kindly for the forward, who hammered home an unstoppable shot at the near post.
World Cup Glance
Switzerland 2 (Admir Mehmedi 48, Haris Serefovic 90+3) vs Ecuador 1 (Enner Valencia 22)
France 2 (Karem Benzema 45 pen, 72, Valladores OG 48) vs Honduras
Argentina 2 (Kolasina o.g, 3, Messi 65) vs Bosnia 1 (Ibisevic 85)
Iran vs Nigeria, Curitiba, 3 pm
Germany vs Portugal, Salvador noon
Ghana vs USA, Natal, 6 pm
The Main Event
Germany's opening game at the 2014 World Cup against Portugal will be their 100th in the competition, they are the first team to reach that tally.
Die Mannschaft have opened their last six World Cups with a victory; the last time they failed to win their opening game was back in 1986, when they drew 1-1 with Uruguay.
Germany have only lost one of their last 18 games in the group stages of the World Cup, against Serbia on 18 June 2010 (0-1), winning 13 and drawing four.
Portugal have only won one of their last seven games at the World Cup (7-0 v North Korea in 2010), drawing three and losing three.
Brazil vs Mexico, Sao Paulo, 3 pm
Belgium vs Algeria, Belo Horizonte, noon
Eussia vs Korea Rep, Cuiaba, 6 pm
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