Real Madrid had three players in action on Sunday, with Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane representing France, and Angel di Maria playing for Argentina.
And it was forward Benzema who stole the headlines, grabbing two goals on his World Cup debut as Les Bleus defeated Honduras 3-0. It was the first time ever that a Real Madrid player has scored a double on their debut in the World Cup. The win also ensured a first for France since the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup against Portugal, as they didn’t win a single match in their disastrous episode in South Africa four years ago.
Benzema gave the 1998 World Cup winners the lead from the penalty spot after Paul Pogba, a rumoured target for Los Blancos, was fouled in the area. The former Lyon man was also involved the key moment in the match – the first time ever goal line technology has been used at a World Cup.
His sidefooted effort came off the post and rolled along the line before bouncing off Honduras’ keeper Valladares. The ball appeared to cross the line before the goalie could claw it away. The big screens inside the Port Alegre stadium initially said ‘No Goal’, but that referred to when the ball hit the post. When a second judgment was made, after it hit the keeper, the ball was shown clearly crossing the line. It was awarded as an own goal.
There was no doubt over France’s third goal though, Benzema riffling a vicious shot home in the closing minutes of the game, in which Varane had little to do at the other end.
Angel di Maria played the full 90 minutes as much fancied Argentina saw off Bosnia-Hercegovina 2-1 at the iconic Maracana Stadium. Barcelona’s Leo Messi stole the show though, scoring a brilliant second goal for the Argentinians, who started slowly but grew into the match. The assist was provided by former Real player Gonzalo Higuain.