Hard to see past France if they don’t self-destruct
French not among favourites to win - but are competing in a relatively easy group
Young spectators show their support to french players Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba during a training session at the Botafogo soccer club’s Santa Cruz stadium in Ribeirao Preto, northwest of Sao Paulo, in recent days. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters
Former champions France should put underdogs Honduras to the sword in their World Cup Group E opener in Porto Alegre tomorrow – although their penchant for self-destruction gives the Central Americans hope of an upset.
The focus will be on Karim Benzema, the 26-year-old Real Madrid striker, who has excelled for the Spanish club this season. Much is also expected of Paul Pogba.
France struggled to qualify for Brazil – going to the play-offs and managing to secure a 3-0 victory against Ukraine in Paris to turn around a 2-0 deficit. They are not among the favourites to win, but in a relatively easy group which also includes Switzerland and Ecuador, and they should start out on the road to the knock-out rounds against Honduras.
Honduras should give a decent account of themselves, though, and the positive mood was boosted by a scoreless draw against England in a friendly in Miami last week.
“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,” said veteran midfielder Wilson Palacios.
Much will rest on Palacios’ shoulders even though he spent a lot of time on the bench this season for Stoke City.
Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre, Scotland’s player of the year in 2011, will also have to be at his best in defence to stem the French attack. Up front, they will rely on strikers Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly.