Didier Deschamps men get their World Cup campaign underway against Luis Fernando Suarez’s Honduras on Sunday, with this French side surprisingly promising, it could raise expectations – although there is little pressure for Deschamps, with this team looking for tournament experience for EURO 2016, especially in youngsters like Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Mamadou Sakho.
France will miss two of their best players, primarily for different reasons – Franck Ribery due to injury; Samir Nasri to his unstable influence off the pitch.
Deschamps omitting Nasri from the squad has been a major talking point in France, and even in England, considering how well the Manchester City winger played last season for the Citizens.
In 29 appearances for City, the French playmaker scored 7 goals and added 7 assists to his team’s cause – but it’s widely reported that Samir Nasri was a major reason why the camp was in disharmony in EURO 2012, and with their last three tournaments in 2008, 2010 and 2012 farcical with off-field issues, it seems that Deschamps omitting Nasri from the 23 man squad was the right decision, as team harmony is important in any international competition, where a team are with each other for 2-4 weeks.
Didier Deschamps will miss Franck Ribery, their top goalscorer in World Cup qualification with five goals.
When Honduras have scored first in their 34 games since the 2010 World Cup, they have not lost – winning 12 and drawing three.
France, however, when scoring first have not lost in their 24 games since the 2010 World Cup.
Honduras’ keeper Noel Valladares has 121 caps for his country.
France may struggle for goals without Franck Ribery, as Karim Benzema is the only other French player who has over 10 goals for France in their 23 man squad.
Honduras have seemingly been wrote off from this group already, and in general, the World Cup – with odds of 4,000-1 to win the competition and are generally 1-10 with bookmakers to not qualify from Group E.
However, Honduras had a better qualifying run that their counterparts France, with Honduras beating Mexico by four points to third spot in the CONCACAF standings, three points behind Costa Rica and seven behind USA.
France, on the other hand, had a peculiar World Cup qualification campaign. Despite having Spain in their group, and losing just their singular game to Spain – they dropped points away to Georgia and grabbed a late equaliser against Spain through an Olivier Giroud goal.
Their World Cup play off didn’t go to plan either, after losing 2-0 away to Ukraine, they had to rely on two Mamadou Sakho goals and a Karim Benzema goal to secure a 3-2 aggregate win – which is why it’s peculiar for so much reported ‘promise’ for this French team.
Despite this, they have a well oiled midfield trio in Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and their key player Paul Pogba.
Key Players – France’s Paul Pogba and Honduras’ Roger Espinoza
At just 21 years old, Paul Pogba is arguably one of the most complete midfielders in the world, and is one of the most exciting midfielders that has come from France since Patrick Viera – it’s a wonder why Sir Alex Ferguson let him go for FREE to Juventus two years ago.
In the 2013/2014 campaign, Pogba averaged 2.3 tackles per game, 1 interception per game, seven goals, seven assists and a Serie A WhoScored.com rating of 7.64. What has also aided Pogba’s cause as one of the most complete midfielders in the world is that he has Champions League experience, playing six games for the Turin side before being knocked out to Roberto Mancini’s Galatasaray side. In the Champions League, Pogba averaged 2.8 tackles per game, assisting one goal and averaged a Champions League WhoScored.com rating of 7.22. The former Manchester United man has 10 caps already for his country – scoring two goals.
WhoScored.com have characterised the French midfielder as a player who is an all-rounder – although the Juventus player does tend to commit fouls on a regular basis in the Serie A, averaging 2.4 fouls per game.
Honduras are a team without a particular star player in their side – Wilson Palacios has lost his mobility and was never a great passer, Jerry Bengtson was Honduras’ top goalscorer in CONCACAF with 9 goals, but it’s yet to be seen whether they will be stifled with the power and mobility in France’s midfield and defence for the striker to get chances in front of goal.
Roger Espinoza looks to be one player who will do a job defensively and offensively for his side, which will be crucial with Sagna, Pogba and Valbuena parading down the right flank. The 27-year old averaged 1.8 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game for Wigan Athletic in the Championship this season.
Honduras have a relatively tough first game in a relatively straight forward group, for France, that is.