Hitman Benzema strikes for France
Benzema leads the way with a brace and also has a hand in the first goal awarded in international football via goal-line technology
(Karim Benzema 45-pen, 72, Noel Valladares 48-og)
Perhaps there is life after Franck Ribery after all.
France brushed aside the absence of their injured talismanic playmaker this morning (Singapore time), by beating Honduras 3-0 to get off to a winning start to their 2014 World Cup campaign.
For that, they have Karim Benzema, thrust into the spotlight as the new de facto leader of France's title charge, to thank.
How the 26-year-old Real Madrid hitman savoured the occasion, responding to his country's call as if he has been waiting for the moment all his life.
France might have the advantage of playing slightly more than one half of the match against an overtly aggressive Honduras.
But there was also a steely determination to Didier Deschamps' men, who seemed eager to remind everyone that they are the dark horses whose chances can't be written off.
Benzema, fresh from winning the Champions League crown with Real Madrid last month, is the man they are pinning their hopes on.
Deployed at the tip of an industrious attack, he ran the offensive show with admirable desire and guts against opponents who appeared more eager to crack bones than entertain fans.
His first goal took composure.
France had hit the crossbar twice prior to that, but couldn't find something extra to punish the Hondurans.
With the score tied at 0-0 and the game close to the halfway mark, Honduras finally paid the price for their reckless play.
It turned out to be a double whammy.
Wilson Palacios barged into Paul Pogba in the box to concede a penalty, and got himself sent off for a second yellow-card offence.
Up stepped Benzema, who thumped it into the top-left corner, to put to rest the French's anxiety.
Benzema then became part of World Cup history when the first goal in international football was awarded via the goal-line technology.
Three minutes into the second half, the German-manufactured GoalControl system was called into action when a volley from Benzema came back off the post.
The ball bounced back into the area before hitting Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
He then tried to scoop the ball to safety, but Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci awarded the goal - classed as an own-goal - after consulting the instant technology through his watch.
"I shot and the ball hit the post and then the goalkeeper," said Benzema.
"I saw that the ball crossed the line. I don't know if having technology like this is good for football but the most important thing is that we have won."
Benzema rounded off a superb show with his second goal in the 72nd minute - a potent blend of power and precision.
When Mathieu Debuchy's venomous shot was deflected into his path, Benzema thumped it from a tight angle over the head of goalkeeper Valladares to complete France's 3-0 win.
The Real striker became the first Frenchman to score a brace in the World Cup since Zinedine Zidane did it in the 1998 final, and France repeated the 3-0 opening-match win in 1998, when they got their first and only World Cup title on home soil.
It was also the first time since 1998 that France have scored in their opening World Cup match.
There have been question marks over how Les Blues are going to cope without Ribery.
Benzema wasted no time in showing where the solution may lie.
Bigger tests than Honduras await them.
But, with Benzema in such form, France surely won't be running scared.
I shot and the ball hit the post and then the goalkeeper. I saw that the ball crossed the line. I don’t know if having technology like this is good for football, but the most important thing is that we have won.
— Karim Benzema