After the referee failed to see England’s Frank Lampard’s strike cross the line against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, FIFA finally acquiesced two years later by voting to implement goal-line technology. Despite continued concerns pertaining to whether it would disrupt the flow of a game, the World Cup in Brazil would see the first use of the technology between France and Honduras.
And it didn’t disappoint.
With the French a goal up, Les Bleus striker Karim Benzema struck Yohan Cabaye’s perfectly weighted pass off the post at the start of the second half, only for Honduras’ goalkeeper Noel Valladares to claw it off the line. Or did he?
Immediate replays showed that rather than making an impressive save, Valladares actually made an egregious error by bundling the ball over the goal-line. Benzema ran off to celebrate, but the game’s spectators watched in anticipation. Thanks to technology, the decision was prompt and the goal was awarded with little or no disruption to the game, even though it did leave some commentators scratching their heads.
The goal came at a time when France was growing in confidence after a somewhat lackluster start. Striking the cross-bar in the first half twice, the French were lucky to have ten men on the field after Juventus’ Pogba lashed out at Honduras captain Wilson Palacios for stamping on him while he was on the ground. Both players were yellow-carded, although a player with a darker reputation might have walked. The referee, perhaps using a bit of common sense rather than the rulebook, just gave a caution, hoping to cool the temperature between the two, although it only appeared to work for one of them.
With the French continuing to attack, it was Pogba again causing trouble, as he stormed into the penalty area only for Palacios to barge him over from behind and concede his second yellow card and a certain penalty kick. As the Honduran captain walked towards the changing room, Benzema cooly fired the French ahead from the spot, removing a great deal of pressure that has plagued Les Bleus after a series of disappointing tournament performances. The goal certainly brought France to life and with Honduras down to ten men, it was only a matter of time before Benzema & Co. would double their lead.
Having been awarded their second goal thanks to goal-line technology, the French pressed for a third and it was the Real Madrid forward who duly obliged. Defender Mathieu Debuchy’s strike was blocked in the penalty area before it again fell to Benzema, who left no doubt this time around when he rifled a drive into the back of the net with his right foot. Now three up over their hapless opponents the French had opportunities to increase their lead, although the Hondurans contrived to hack them down at every opportunity. If scoring is a problem for the Hondurans, so too is their discipline.
What we learned about … France: This was France’s first opening game triumph at a World Cup since they defeated South Africa, and went on to win the tournament, in 1998. It’s also the first tournament in a while that they have not been weighed down by lofty expectations. Even minus star winger Franck Ribéry, the French clearly possess the weapons to threaten any side in this tournament.
After enjoying a great deal of possession and seeing some frustrating build-up play, Benzema’s penalty helped settle them down and they were rarely threatened for the remainder of the game. But this was largely a walk in the park. Tougher tests are forthcoming. Few teams will be as ill-disciplined as Sunday’s opponents.
What we learned about … Honduras: Up with Greece, this was probably the poorest performance of any side at the World Cup. Losing players like Palacios will leave a gaping hole in their midfield, one they are clearly ill-equipped to plug. Even before the tournament started, the Hondurans clearly had a problem with discipline.
Scoring goals is obviously going to be a problem. In order to address that, however, it might be worth addressing the fact that they are also struggling to keep eleven men on the field.
Ewan Watt writes extensively on state and national issues in the U.S., covering the 2012 presidential election for both print and online publications. He is providing commentary for The Daily Caller on a regular basis throughout the World Cup. He writes strictly in a personal capacity. You can follow him on Twitter at @ewancwatt