Benzema fires at right time for France

COMMENT: The former Lyon man has not always shown his best form for his country but he was far too clinical for a Honduras side hindered by their own ill discipline
By Matheus Harb in Porto Alegre

He was questioned beforehand, but on this occasion Karim Benzema delivered for his country.

Not even guaranteed a place in the starting line-up before a blistering display against Jamaica in Les Bleus' final warm-up game, Benzema was the star as Didier Deschamps' men opened their Group E account with a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Honduras.

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For so long the fall-guy on the international stage, the Real Madrid man finally replicated his club form when it really mattered.

France were given a helping hand by Honduras' ill discipline, however.

Only Wilson Palacios will know what he was doing when, having already been booked for lashing out at Paul Pogba, he barged senselessly into the Juventus midfielder to concede a penalty and pick up a second yellow card.

Benzema converted with impressive calm and from there on in, the match was barely a contest.

In fact, had it not been for the intervention of goal-line technology Benzema could have opened the tournament with a hat-trick.

His cushioned volley after 48 minutes hit the post, rolled across the line and in off bungling Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

Following initial confusion when the Porto Alegre crowd were shown a graphic which showed 'no goal' in relation to the effort which hit the woodwork, referee Sandro Ricci and the technology combined to award it after Valladares' mistake. At 2-0 and with no sign of a comeback from their dispirited opponents, France were allowed to play with freedom.

And that brought even more out of Benzema, the striker perhaps revelling in his new role as the team's chief attacking threat in the absence of the injured Franck Ribery.

Although he was predominantly in the line up as the central pivot in a three-man attack, he was happy to drift around the final third, combining nicely with Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann.

His performance was rewarded further with a second goal 18 minutes from the end.

A loose ball fell nicely into his path to the right of goal and he showed his predatory instincts to hammer a drive high past Valladares.

This might not be a vintage France team. They don't have a Zidane, an Henry, or even a Deschamps.

But if Benzema can fire, and given the relatively straightforward group they have been given, they are a team to watch.