It seems a little crazy to consider France a " dark horse" candidate at a World Cup, but considering Les Bleus' quiet exit at Euro 2012 and 2010's humiliating implosion in the South African heat, this year's crew has flown a little under the radar. After France's 3-0 spanking of Honduras in Porto Alegre, the rest of the field has been put on notice.
Los Catrachos doggedly defended for much of the opening frame, with a clear intention to limit space and physically frustrate their European opponents. Paul Pogba came off worse for wear after a double stamping by Wilson Palacios and the yellow card received by each midfielder soon proved hugely consequential.
Just before halftime, Palacios and Pogba again came together, with the Honduran bowling over the Juventus star to concede a clear penalty and earn his second booking. Karim Benzema put France a goal to the good, a man to the good, and this sent Didier Deschamps' men on their way.
Benzema added two more in the second half, although only one will be accredited to him on the score sheet. His magnificent volley struck the inside of the post, but was eventually bungled home by Honduran keeper, Noel Valladares. He finally got a clean goal from open play in the 72nd minute, smashing the ball to beat Valladares at his near post.
As a USMNT supporter, I should be rooting for every CONCACAF team to do well, particularly teams not named "Mexico." Still, I found it difficult to not immensely enjoy watching this particular French side under the guidance of Deschamps. Franck Ribery may be an injury absence, but Antoine Griezmann is a half-step away from super stardom in his own right and, on the other wing, Mathieu Valbuena pulls a rabbit out of a hat every five minutes. The Cabaye-Pogba-Matuidi midfield has exceptional balance and fluidity, while France's plane appears to have been boarded by "confident, aggressive Karim Benzema" as opposed to "pouty, pain in the ass Karim Benzema." I haven't even gotten to the back five of Evra-Sakho-Varane-Debuchy and sweeper-keeper extraordinaire, Hugo Lloris. In short, watch out.
No Short Corners Man of the Match: Had to be Benzema, though Valbuena was absolute dynamite as well.
- Matt Averna