England’s World Cup began with a rumble in the jungle yesterday (quite literally) but our cross channel neighbours will be hoping for a much more gentle start for France against Honduras tonight. And if the markets are to be believed, then Les Bleus should have a simple enough task opening their Group F account in style against the minnows.
Honduras qualified third behind Costa Rica and the USA in their third round and while they managed a first win for any side on Mexican soil since 2001 that may have more to do with El Tri’s problems at the time. Honduras won just four games in the fourth stage of qualifying, and while two other victories did come against Costa Rica and the USA, they also were held at home by Panama, and then drew with Jamaica.
One of France’s three friendly wins in preparation for this tournament was an 8-0 trashing of that Jamaica side, to provide context, while they also beat Holland 2-0 and put four past Norway in warmups for the competition. Didier Deschamps’s job was on the line before he changed the formation after a lacklustre 2-0 defeat against Ukraine, and 5 players, allowing Paul Pogba in particular to have greater free reign, and since then they have looked like the accomplished side that they are on paper
Honduras’s defence has looked worryingly open in not only qualifying, but also in three warmup games then they conceded 7 to Israel, Turkey and Venezuela – three sides that will not be at these finals – and while they held England to a bore draw with just 10 men, extremely generous finishing meant that they didn’t get beaten there and anything but a win for the French here would be a severe disappointment. France should prove capable of covering a 1 goal handicap, but it’s hard to be overly enthused about backing them to do so and this is a game that might be best left.