PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Karim Benzema scored twice and created a third that was confirmed by goal-line technology as France eased into its World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over Honduras on Sunday
The convincing victory — albeit against a 10-man team for more than 45 minutes — was in stark contrast to the team's performances in South Africa four years ago, when the highly paid squad failed to win a single match and was sent home in a disgrace after going on a training strike.
It now tops group E and, with Switzerland and Ecuador left to play, stands a good chance of staying there.
"Winning 3-0 at a World Cup isn't easy," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "(The players should) savor the moment, there's nothing more wonderful. We're going recover and then go again in five days' time."
Benzema's first goal came from the penalty spot just before halftime after Wilson Palacios was sent off with his second yellow card for charging into the back of Paul Pogba. The Real Madrid striker calmly slotted the ball to the left of Noel Valladares to give the French a deserved lead going into the break.
"It's my first World Cup and I think we're all satisfied with the result," Benzema said. "It was important to win this match."
With Honduras down to 10 men, France didn't take long to double the score, thanks again to the Real Madrid striker and the first decisive use of goal line technology in a World Cup.
Yohan Cabaye, whose pass had earlier picked out Pogba to give the French their penalty, struck a long ball that Benzema shot across the goal. The ball came back off the post across goal before Valladares fumbled it over his own line. With the new technology system confirming the ball crossed the line, referee Sandro Ricci gave the own goal despite Honduran protests.
Benzema got his second on the 72nd minute, firing in powerfully from inside the area after a long-range shot by right back Mathieu Debuchy was blocked.
"Obviously Karim did well because he scored and he was decisive for us," Deschamps said. "But I was also pleased with our team spirit and our collective way of playing. They defended with a lot of aggression; it was pretty difficult to find an opening even though we hit the crossbar twice. The sending off changed things. We had a lot of space and could take advantage of it."