A chance. Karim Benzema was waiting for this. Since October 8, 2015 and his double in a friendly against Armenia in Nice, the French striker wanted to have a new opportunity to wear the jersey struck by the rooster. Despite the famous sextape affair with Mathieu Valbuena and his controversial interview with Marca on Didier Deschamps, KB9 has always shown, in public and in private, his desire to play for the France team. For a long time, his name and the subject were taboo during the press conferences of the national coach. A coach who has stuck to his positions for more than five years.
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Behind the scenes of an expected return
And that proved him right since he was crowned world champion in Russia in 2018. Three years later, DD decided to reach out to the center-forward, author of a good season at Real Madrid (29 goals and 9 assists). It must be said that the coach of the Blues was aware that he needed to inject new blood into a less flamboyant selection. The overall content offered at the March 2021 rally against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina definitely convinced him to call on the former OL player on May 18 when announcing the list of 26.
A choice assumed by Deschamps. ” Why now? I don’t have the capacity, nobody has, to go back and change anything. The most important is today and tomorrow. There were important steps. A very important one. We saw each other. We discussed at length. After that, I had a long reflection to come to this decision today. I will not reveal a word of the discussion, that concerns us both. I needed it, he needed it “. A speech that was more or less the same on the player’s side, ready to get off to a good start.
Good integration into the France group
A return that has aroused many reactions in France and abroad. And if a party has always been resistant to it, its comeback has been generally welcomed. It must be said that many people were waiting to see the trio of madness Mbappé-Griezmann-Benzema in action. Because KB9 came back well to be the holder and bring his talent and his experience to the Blues. On June 2, he was therefore aligned from the start in a friendly against Wales. A satisfying first where he obtained many opportunities while making himself available to his partners with intelligent travel.
The only real downside to the 90 minutes: his missed penalty against Ward. Six days later, on June 8, he started again against Bulgaria in a friendly. Despite opportunities and a technical accuracy which was good, he abandoned the Blues after 40 minutes of play. Hit in the knee, Benzema recovered, he who took advantage of the preparation to find automatisms with his teammates and blend into the group. And on this point, it was a success. From the coach to the president of the FFF, Noël Le Graët, through the staff and the players, all welcomed the integration of the 33-year-old player.
The Euro, the test of the 9
A player who was eagerly awaited during the tournament. Especially since he had never scored during a Euro. He thought to unlock his counter against Germany on June 15 (88 minutes played). But his goal had been denied. Valuable in ball conservation, he had had few balloons to exploit. A slightly disappointing performance. Against Hungary (75 minutes played), he was again silent, especially missing big opportunities. Concern was beginning to emerge among observers and some supporters. But Didier Deschamps has always maintained his confidence in the player born in 87.
“Obviously, he knows that he is expected on that aspect and I told him: ‘it’s not just that’. An attacker needs to score, the main thing is that he keeps confidence and especially my confidence ”. The click came the next match against Portugal (June 23, 90 minutes played). After 30 shots and no goals in three European Championships (2008, 2012 and 2020), Benzema signed a brace (including a penalty) against the Lusitanians. Yesterday, against Switzerland (93 minutes played), he did it again. While the Blues were led 1-0, he equalized. Served by Mbappé, he managed to get the ball perfectly before adjusting Sommer.
In the process, he scored with a header, taking well a shot from Griezmann who was spinning outside. In two minutes, he put France back in seal. Unfortunately, the Blues were eliminated (5-4 tab). In the aftermath of this blow, Benzema is one of the only players to take his head out of the water after this sinking, along with Paul Pogba. The team gave him a score of 8. The FM editorial staff gave him a score of 7. Despite a difficult first half, like the team, he was able to recover and bring goals and his technique when he had to. The Euro ended, the time is now to take stock.
An acceptable record even if Benzema can do better
Used 4 times by Didier Deschamps, Benzema finished the competition with four goals. He was therefore the top scorer for the Blues during this Euro 2020. All while being silent the first two meetings. Overall, we can say that he fulfilled his mission, namely to score goals. If he searched a lot for Griezmann and Mbappé, the agreement between the three men did not live up to expectations. We expected better and more from such an attacking trio. We also expected a little more from the Madrilenian, who failed to improve the game of his team and who disappeared at times.
In his defense, the native of Lyon, often available and interesting in small spaces, had very little time to find a place and automatisms within the eleven tricolor. He was called less than a month before the start of the tournament. It would have been better to summon him long before, a story that he can really contribute and weigh. But Didier Deschamps was not necessarily of this opinion. “No, it would have been the same (if he had been called back before)”, did he declare. At almost 34 (he’ll have them in December), KB (1) 9 has made a decent comeback overall, although not everything has been perfect. Unless there is an upheaval, he should be called up again next September for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. A goal and a dream for the player with 87 selections and 31 goals!