France ready for ‘aggressive’ Hondurans

All smiles in the France camp (AFP)

PORTO ALEGRE, June 15: France coach Didier Deschamps has warned his side will face a tough test against a well-organised Honduras side when they open their World Cup campaign in Porto Alegre on Sunday.

On paper the French appear to have been handed a soft draw with Switzerland and Ecuador making up Group E, but Deschamps believes world champions Spain’s 5-1 humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands is a warning that anything can happen.

“We are not playing qualifiers any more, all 32 teams are of a high level,” said the 45-year-old, who captained France to World Cup glory in 1998.

“I don’t have to remind you that before yesterday a great team like Spain also lost to Switzerland four years ago, Brazil also had a tough match against Croatia and it is obvious we won’t have an easy match tomorrow.”

The Hondurans have earned the reputation as a physical side before the tournament has even got underway after a bad-tempered friendly with England last weekend that saw the Central Americans have Brayan Beckeles sent-off.

However, Deschamps insisted France’s first opponents have more to their armour than merely brute strength.

“They are aggressive and know how to defend, I saw that in the friendly against England. They played very well as a team even with 10 players and they have good technical skills.

“But they don’t just defend, otherwise they wouldn’t be ranked 31st in the world.”

Despite missing star playmaker Franck Ribery due to a back injury, France’s build-up to the tournament has been tranquil compared to the outrage caused by a player revolt and disastrous performances at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago.

And Deschamps believes his young side are beginning to win over the French public once more.

“We shouldn’t mention South Africa because we are now in another World Cup we are not going to be judged by what we did four years ago.

“It is good to have a pleasant atmosphere in the squad and we have people at home supporting the team which is very important, but we will be judged on what happens starting from tomorrow.”

Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris is one of the few survivors from the team that were humbled in South Africa and he admitted a better atmosphere inside the dressing room should produce better results on the pitch this time round.

“I am not here to compare different World Cups or different generations, but it is obvious that we are getting on very well in our training sessions.

“We have been working very hard for four weeks, we are getting ready and everything is going very well inside the dressing room. That is key and we hope to show some good performances.

“If we get those performances and victories I am sure everything will remain as it is. We start with a clean slate tomorrow and hopefully we will win the match.”

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