BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – The return of Karim Benzema accelerates France’s attack and relieves the defense.
The France team will go for a fourth consecutive clean sheet with Benzema who will play when they face Hungary in Budapest on Saturday in the European Championship. A win will put France in the next round after its opening with a 1-0 win over Germany. Hungary lost to Portugal 3-0.
Les Bleus look sharper with Benzema, who has integrated effortlessly since returning to the national team after a nearly six-year absence following an argument with coach Didier Deschamps in the middle of a sex tape scandal.
He replaced Olivier Giroud, who plays more back to goal. Benzema’s technique and playing readiness help him click along with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. The trio work for each other, forming a marauding front unit that prevents opposing teams from quickly fainting from behind.
Their efforts take the strain off the midfielder and ultimately the defense.
“When you see Kylian lose the ball and get it back five seconds later, Karim working hard and Antoine falling really deep, it gives us strength,” said French defender Raphaël Varane. “Then we encourage them from behind, or give them good passes to attack. ”
Varane, a Real Madrid player who occupies central defense alongside Presnel Kimpembe, said the attackers’ pace of work was key to canceling Germany’s much-vaunted attack.
“Our three forwards defended a lot,” Varane said. “They ran a lot to reduce the space between the lines. “
Considering they only played three games, they have improved considerably as an offensive unit. Benzema and Mbappe exchange quick passes and switch positions higher up the pitch, with the quick and skillful Griezmann operating behind them.
Deschamps has praised Griezmann, although he wishes he worked a little less hard at times.
“He’s one of our leaders, with his goals, his assists, his movement. He is a creative player who has the gift of giving everything he has, ”said Deschamps on Friday. “Sometimes he tries too hard to defend, but he’s got that in him. It’s a natural thing.
Griezmann’s deep role also allows him to play closer to attacking midfielder Paul Pogba, whose superb range of passes hurt the Germans.
Pogba appears to be back to his best after losing his place in the Manchester United squad and being stripped of the vice-captain post at the end of 2018.
While Benzema has yet to score since his return, he has been a constant threat and had a marked offside on Tuesday.
Mbappe, Pogba and Griezmann all scored in the World Cup final victory over Croatia three years ago. Now Deschamps can add Benzema, who has scored 30 goals for Real Madrid this season.
Benzema’s ability to control the ball in any position and his skillful high-speed passes helped France keep the ball high on the pitch, reducing the threat of quick counterattacks.
There was also an improvement in Mbappe’s attitude, in terms of defending much further off the ball than in previous games for France and Paris Saint-Germain.
The dangerous runs of the three forwards give Pogba considerable options. The way the three forwards bonded with him troubled Germany throughout.
The four players seem inseparable on and off the pitch. The France team posted a video of the quartet arriving in training on Wednesday.
Griezmann handed Pogba a phone and showed him something, which caused a howling with laughter from Manchester United midfielder. Benzema and Mbappe laughed with him.
Hungary manager Marco Rossi lamented how easily his side conceded goals after Portugal belatedly took the lead in Budapest. They will have to tighten up against France and support in all areas of the field to prevent their opponents from regaining the upper hand in the match.
Hungary, however, will have huge support in the 67,215-seat Puskas Arena, just like against Portugal.
Hungary is the only one of the 10 countries to host matches in the tournament to allow full crowds amid the pandemic.
More AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to Code of conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.