The second of our matches sees the 2014 World Cup arrive in Porto Alegre for the match between Frances and Honduras in Group E. This evening’s match is being played at the Estadio Beira-Rio, the home of SC Internacional, with their city’s rivals also recently revamped Arena do Grêmio having been overlooked for this tournament. For France, this tournament is an opportunity to get their World Cup finals record back on track after the abysmal failure of four years ago when, in one of the big surprises of an underwhelming group stage across the entire competition, they were eliminated after three matches without a win and with the squad having threatened to go on strike.
This time around, there are no such concerns that the players will only be barely speaking to the coach by the time these three games are over. France only qualified for the tournament by the skin of their teeth, and after they lost the first leg of their qualification play-off match by two goals to nil against Ukraine last November, it looked as if they might even fail to get through to the finals of the tournament for the first time since 1974. In the return leg at the Stade de France, however, everything changed. A three-nil win sent them through to the finals, and friendly matches since then which have included an eight-nil rout against Jamaica and a two-nil win against the Netherlands have instilled a degree of confidence in the French public that this team might just be coming together at the right time.
Honduras, meanwhile, are in the finals of the competition for only the third time. Their first appearance came in 1982, when they finished bottom of their group but in two extremely creditable performances to earn draws against both the host nation Spain and Northern Ireland. Four years ago in South Africa, they could manage just one point from their three matches, but failed to score a single goal and were eliminated from the tournament with one game to spare. In qualifying, they finished in third place in the CONCACAF qualifying group, behind the United States of America and Costa Rica and four points above one of that region’s traditional powerhouses, Mexico. Indeed, Honduras beat Mexico both home and away in that qualification round and also beat the USA at home, so perhaps underestimating them might turn out to be something of a fool’s errand. Ian King and Rob Freeman will be with you from shortly before eight o’clock.
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