REUTERS - Justice was done on all fronts in Porto Alegre on Sunday as goalline technology passed its first World Cup test with flying colours and French free-flowing football conquered the heavy-handed tactics of Honduras.
With France leading 1-0 in Group E thanks to Karim Benzema’s penalty just before halftime, the GoalControl system took centre stage three minutes into the second half.
Benzema’s shot cannoned off a post, came back across the face of goal before Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares inadvertently nudged the ball towards his own net.
To the naked eye it was almost impossible to tell if it had crossed the line. Adding to the confusion Benzema wheeled away in delight, while Valladares played on trying to convince Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci he had gathered the ball in time.
But there was no fooling GoalControl.
The system, which features 14 high-speed cameras located around the pitch, seven focusing on each goalmouth, confirmed to Ricci that the ball had crossed the line and he blew for a goal to put France 2-0 ahead.
Benzema went on to crack home another for France, giving the 1998 World Cup winners a comfortable 3-0 victory, but had the technology not been available it is unlikely the referee would have been able to award the goal.
In 2012, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said it was “a historic day for international football” when England midfielder Frank Lampard ‘scored’ his “ghost goal” against Germany at the World Cup two years earlier as it convinced him of the need for goalline technology.
While technology played its part in France’s win, ‘Les Bleus’ fully deserved the three points.
Their pace, direct running and inventiveness was in stark contrast to the aggressive, confrontational approach of the Central Americans.
Coach Luis Fernando Suarez had called his side the “Cinderellas” of the World Cup but on Sunday it appeared the ‘ugly sisters’ had showed up as Honduras sought to prevent France from getting into a rhythm.
Wilson Palacios became the second player at this tournament to receive a red card after he barged into French midfielder Paul Pogba with a reckless challenge seconds before the break.
Honduras lived up to their reputation for playing with an intense, bruising style, and while France allowed themselves to be drawn into a physical battle in the first half they were also responsible for the game’s brightest moments.
‘Les Bleus’ hit the woodwork three times and dominated possession, with Benzema and fellow frontman Antoine Griezmann particularly impressive.
While there is a long way to go before France can exorcise the ghosts of their woeful 2010 campaign, when the players mutinied against coach Raymond Domenech and returned home in disgrace, it was a positive first step in repairing their tarnished reputation.
Editing by Justin Palmer