France will face Switzerland in the round of 16 of the European Championship and the striker could enjoy this match for several reasons.
Benzema could play more freely after scoring both goals in the 2-2 draw against Portugal on Wednesday, taking a huge weight off his back. It was his first goals for the Blues since October 2015.
“Everyone was expecting this,” said the Real Madrid forward. “The pressure is different than when you play for your club. “
He might also feel confident as it was against the Swiss that he had his previous best performance for France in a 5-2 win at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He scored with an opportunistic finish, netted a goal for Moussa Sissoko and saw a superb curling strike denied as it crossed the line just after referee Bjorn Kuipers’ final whistle.
Salvador’s Brazilian fans warmed up to his flamboyant style and he was the No.1 striker to coach Didier Deschamps. Antoine Griezmann made his appearance on the international scene and Olivier Giroud was behind Benzema in the hierarchy.
The following year, Benzema’s international career plummeted after falling out with Deschamps over the player’s involvement in a “sextape” scandal.
It cost Benzema a place at Euro 2016, where France lost to Portugal in the final. Then, he watched from his television France’s victory in the 2018 World Cup.
A turnaround from Deschamps saw Benzema surprisingly recalled just before Euro 2020 and, after a frustrating performance last Saturday against Hungary, he was at his best against Portugal.
“These goals were important for Karim,” said Deschamps. “But he never stopped believing in himself and I never stopped believing in him. “
Benzema’s 29-goal tally in 86 international appearances seems a bit low for a player of such technical ability. However, there is more to his game than goals. He’s a selfless striker who creates space for others, a mix of finisher, playmaker and supplier.
Former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer with 450 goals and credited Benzema’s role in that goal in the nine years they’ve played together. Their connection was evident when they left the field on Wednesday with their arms around each other.
Benzema has won in Madrid since Ronaldo joined Juventus in 2018.
He rose to fifth in Madrid’s scorers’ table with 279 goals and is tied for fourth in the Champions League at 71.
Now is the time for Benzema, 33, to help France score goals at Euro 2020.
He did so against Portugal, scoring a penalty in the first half when Griezmann is the most consistent shooter.
There was also pressure on Benzema, as France were down 1-0 and their previous penalty against Wales was saved three weeks ago.
He sent the ball to the lower left corner.
“You,” said Benzema, “must be determined. “
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