Having almost missed out on qualification for the finals following a two-legged play off with Ukraine, France will be looking to restore faith when they meet Group E underdogs Honduras in Porto Alegre.
Despite the absence of the injured Franck Ribery and highly-rated Samir Nasri, who was controversially left at home by boss Didier Deschamps, the French team boast enough experience and quality to take all three points from the Hondurans, who won less than half of their games during qualifying.
Valbuena could be key
France were at their best during qualifying when attacking through right and central positions, creating 84 per cent of their 18 goals from those areas. With Mathieu Valbuena expected to occupy the right side of a front three, while being allowed the freedom to drift inside and spearhead a midfield diamond, the Honduras defence could have a job on their hands limiting the diminutive playmaker's input for Les Bleus. Deschamps will, however, be aware of the Hondurans' strength at left-back, conceding only 13 per cent of their goals from that area during their own qualifying campaign, meaning the battle between Valbuena and Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre could prove crucial in the outcome of this match.
Get ahead and stay ahead
France were the masters of taking points from winning positions during qualifying - all six games in which they struck first, Les Bleus went on to win. Given that Honduras failed to score in 38 per cent of their matches, and had a disappointing average of 1.56 goals per game (one of the lowest of any team appearing in Brazil), an opening goal for the 1998 World Cup winners might prove enough to take an expected three points in what could be a nervy Group E opener.
Honduras looking to leave it late?
Games involving France tend to start slowly - Les Bleus didn't concede a single goal inside the opening 15 minutes during qualifying but, of the 18 goals scored by Didier Deschamps' side, they only managed a solitary strike in that same period. The physical strength of the Hondurans should make them more accustomed to the Brazilian climate and, given that 28 per cent of their goals during the CONCACAF qualifiers came in the final 15 minutes, boss Luis Fernando Suarez could opt to keep things compact early on before utilising Roger Espinoza, Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson during the latter stages to exploit a potentially tired France defence.
Expectations will be high for the French to begin their Group B campaign with a comfortable win over their Central American opponents after the Hondurans failed to record a win during three pre-World Cup friendlies against European sides Turkey, Israel and England. However, with France themselves failing to score in almost a third of their qualifying matches and Honduras surpassing that record by firing blanks in 38 per cent of their games on the road to Brazil - the worst of any team at the finals - the stats suggest a solitary goal could settle this potentially low-scoring affair.
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