New-look France shows maturity under pressure

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014

RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — Aside from France's new-found panache in attack, it was the composure in the face of some ferocious tackling that really stood out in France's 3-0 World Cup win against Honduras.

Striker Karim Benzema took the acclaim after scoring twice and playing a decisive role in the other goal. But Sunday's Group E contest against a side reduced to 10 men just before halftime was really settled behind him as France's midfield and fullbacks kept calm in a hostile situation.

Four years ago, France's team could not even handle their nerves in training, let alone a match. They fell apart completely, with Nicolas Anelka's expletive-raced rant at former coach Raymond Domenech prompting the infamous training ground strike that shamed a nation.

It was a shambolic World Cup for France, outplayed by Mexico and beaten by an average South Africa side as it crashed out of the group stage without winning a game and with its reputation in tatters.

Coach Didier Deschamps has made sure there are cooler heads this time around, and they were needed against a Honduras team seemingly intent on turning the game into a scrap.

"This is the highest level, it's never easy to start a competition and you always have doubts. You wonder how each player will respond," Deschamps said Monday. "It's my job to warn them in advance. We'd seen Honduras' matches over the past two years. We knew they would be very committed and that we had to be too, but not to get drawn in. Apart from one or two reactions everyone controlled themselves well in that respect."

The exception was midfielder Paul Pogba, because otherwise France showed maturity to withstand some intense provocation.

Pogba was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card when he lashed out at fellow midfielder Wilson Palacios, who had gone through him with a heavy challenge.

"I'm not here to point the finger at him, I'm here to help him and to make sure that he controls himself," Deschamps said. "The way he plays means that he takes a lot of blows. Given his size and height, it's easier to foul him than a smaller player — although Mathieu (Valbuena) was roughed up quite a bit."

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