World Cup 2014 Group E preview: France v Honduras
France take on Honduras in their first Group E match, knowing that this is a must-win match. Didier Deschamps’ preparation for the tournament has been relatively routine, following up a 4-0 win over Norway, and a 1-1 draw against Paraguay with an eight goal to nil victory over Jamaica.
Les Bleus are odds-on at 8/11 to get their campaign off to a good start, though should qualify from Group E, despite potentially tricky fixtures against Switzerland and Ecuador, who held England to a 2-2 draw.
Real Madrid striker, and Champions League winner, Karim Benzema is being widely predicted to make an impact on the match, after bagging a brace against Jamaica. He is 3/1 to net first, and 5/1 to sore two or more.
In the final World Cup warm-up game against Jamaica, Deschamps dropped a hint as to the way he may set his team up, when the 1998 tournament winner moved Benzema to the left to accommodate Arsenal centre forward Olivier Giroud as the lone attacker. That is at the very least a ‘Plan B’. Giroud himself has been in fantastic form in front of goal, having scored twice against Norway, and is priced at 4/1 to open the scoring.
One player that France will be without however, is talisman Franck Ribery who was recently ruled out of the tournament with injury. The Dutch and Brazilians showed how important key players are, after Neymar netted twice as the hosts beat Croatia 3-1, and Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben struck two each, as the Netherlands wreaked havoc in a 5-1 victory over Spain.
Encouragingly, Deschamps has the next generation coming through, and may opt to utilise winger Antoine Griezman, after the Real Sociedad player came on and scored twice in the last 13 minutes against Jamaica. Big things are expected from the 23-year-old who has a rapid turn of pace, and a near pinpoint delivery from the flank. If he plays, expect Giroud to flourish from his crosses.
Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko have been deployed in the midfield screen behind a fluid trio of attackers in what has become the modern game’s standard 4-2-3-1 system.
Another player who could make an impact is extremely talented midfielder Paul Pogba. He has set Serie A alight for Juventus since he left Manchester United, and is evolving as one of the most sought-after central midfielders in the world. Pogba is without a doubt the natural successor to the great Patrick Vieira, and is one of a number of young stars emerging for Les Bleus. Back him at 11/4 to find the goal at anytime.
Honduras, meanwhile, are no doubt going to keep things tight. Their best goal threat is expected to come from striker and one-time Birmingham City flop Carlo Costly, who has a keen eye for goal, and boasts 30 strikes in 69 appearances for his country. Coral are offering odds of 9/4 for him to score anytime.
Perhaps surprisingly, the two teams have never played each other, though France have more than enough to get their World Cup campaign off to a flier.