World Cup Group E | Porto Alegre | Mon 16 Jun | 3am
Gallic guile versus South American grit.
If England's recent clash with Honduras was anything to go by - and clash, in this case, is very much the correct term - then France will have to gird their shin pads. The South Americans aren't afraid of a lunging tackle or two, particularly when on the back foot; sturdy defending might be their best option against an improving French side.
Still, to dismiss them as total roughhouses would be unfair - they're hardly the international version of Wimbledon's late '80s team - and Honduras are a generally disciplined unit in their 4-4-2 formation. With two strikers, Jerry Bengston and Carlo Costly scoring freely in the qualifiers, there's an outside chance they might nick a goal here.
France, meanwhile, approach this tournament in an unusually tranquil mood. The decision to leave sulky-faced midfielder Samir Nasri at home initially seemed controversial. Subsequent comments from playing staff have hinted at a newfound serenity within the squad.
With their attacking flair diminished by the ruling out of in-form midfielder Franck Ribery (back injury), Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye will have to pull up the slack. Meanwhile, a defensive four that has lacked stability all season will need to gel quickly. This fixture against an unfancied Honduras side should enable them to establish a groove.
What the local media say
"With Ribéry out, Deschamps could have called up Manchester City's Samir Nasri, but having made clear he had not picked him in the first place because of his behaviour off the pitch, he overlooked him again."- France 24
"[Luis Fernando] Suárez [was working with his defence] on a way to counter the advances of the French midfield, pushing the plays for Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly, the two men allegedly [selected] for the game on Sunday." - Daily Tribune Honduras
Key battle: Olivier Giroud vs Maynor Figueroa
Both these players know each other from the Premier League, though how the Hull defender copes with Giroud could prove pivotal. Figueroa has experience for sure, and can play as both a centre-half and left-back, but he'll have to shackle at least one of the French front three - Giroud, Karim Benzema and Loic Remy - if Honduras are to gain a steady footing in this fixture.
Giroud, meanwhile, cut something of an enigmatic figure at Arsenal last season. Devastating in spells (he scored 22 goals in all competitions), there were times when he seemed distracted. With his supply lines pinched by the absence of Ribery, Giroud will have to be at his most self-motivated in Brazil. The worrying news for Honduras is that his attacking team-mates have more than enough firepower should he experience a bad day at the office.
Facts and figures
- This will be the first ever international meeting between France and Honduras.
- Jerry Bengtson was Honduras’ top scorer in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with 9 goals in 12 games.
- Since lifting the trophy in 1998, France have failed to score in all 3 World Cup openers, drawing two 0-0 and losing 1-0 to Senegal in 2002.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
France to settle into a steady rhythm with an untroubled 2-0 win.