PORTO ALEGRE – Instead of fighting amongst themselves France beat up on Honduras in their World Cup opener on Sunday, signalling they still like a good scrap but no longer with each other.
Four years ago in South Africa, France were a squad full of cliques torn apart by internal squabbling that returned home in disgrace after failing to win a game. But fans were back onside proudly singing La Marseillaise at Beira Rio stadium as Les Bleus thumped Honduras 3-0 in Group E with the help of a double from Karim Benzema.
The united front amongst the players was far different from the fractious squad that earned nothing but scorn in South Africa, offering the clearest sign yet that French football and their fans have turned the page on that nightmare. "I think it is a marvellous start for us. It was a very important match indeed," said France coach Didier Deschamps.
"We have in front of us the team of Honduras playing with high qualities and they have defended with a high aggression and that was very complicated for us even if we hit the bar twice (in the first half). "Finally, the penalty and the exclusion of the player changed the situation, we had more space".
He added referring to Benzema's 45th minute spot kick that followed the dismissal of Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios for a foul in the area. "We scored three goals, we could have scored even more goals but it was a good start for our team."