Porto Alegre, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Karim Benzema played a starring role in France's opening match of the World Cup, scoring twice to lead his team to a 3-0 defeat of Honduras at the Estadio Beira-Rio on Sunday.
France seized control of the match in the 45th minute when Wilson Palacios received a second caution for a foul on Paul Pogba. Not only did Honduras drop to 10 men, but the foul occurred in the box, allowing Benzema to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Benzema continued his fine play by creating a scoring opportunity in the 48th minute that saw Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares concede an own goal.
The Real Madrid man completed his fine outing by getting his second of the match in the 72nd minute, lifting Les Blues to a comfortable victory to go level with Switzerland atop Group E.
"I thought Karim played particularly well, as did the team as a whole," said France head coach Didier Deschamps. "I went for a mobile front line to avoid getting into an overly physical battle, to stretch their defense and tire them out. It took time, but it worked out in the end."
France came within inches of opening the scoring in the 15th minute when a failed clearance from a free kick fell to Blaise Matuidi. The PSG midfielder directed a shot toward goal, but Valladares tipped the effort onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
Nine minutes later, Les Blues produced a well-worked move that nearly resulted in the opening goal. Antoine Griezmann served up a gorgeous cross- field pass to the right flank to pick out Mathieu Valbuena, who settled the ball before crossing it to Benzema. The 26-year-old striker got his head to the delivery but was unable to turn it on frame as his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
Shortly after, Palacios was involved in a minor scuffle with Pogba that saw both men receive yellow cards.
And just before halftime, the two players combined again to turn the tide in favor of the French. Palacios barged into the back of Pogba in the box, resulting in a second caution to the Stoke City midfielder, and Benzema buried the ensuing penalty to give the French a narrow lead heading into the halftime interval.
With a brief respite and an extra man for the second period, France wasted little time in doubling its advantage as a fortuitous goal came within three minutes of the restart.
Benzema latched on to Yohan Cabaye's cross to direct a shot across goal and off the far post. The ball trickled across the goal line and was eventually turned in by Valladares, though the Honduras 'keeper quickly collected possession in an attempt to disguise the fact that the ball had narrowly crossed the line.
But the World Cup received its first test of goal line technology, which efficiently confirmed that the ball had gone in the net.
Benzema completed his brace in the 72nd minute when a blocked shot fell to his feet on the right side of the box. He settled the ball before uncorking a shot into the near upper corner, sealing a convincing win for the French.
France and Switzerland, level at the top of the group on three points apiece, will return to action in a crucial match at the Arena Fonte Nova on Friday.
Honduras, meanwhile, will attempt to rebound when it takes on Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada, also on Friday.