Karim Benzema may have missed a penalty, but not his reunion with the France team, Wednesday, June 2, at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, in the victory against Wales (3-0) in a match of preparation for the Euro. Failed or rather stopped, resumes Didier Deschamps after resorting to video assistance. “I saw him again and I think he is well shot, that the goalkeeper is very good”, assures the coach in support of his player.
Danny Ward – the goalkeeper in question – didn’t really want to see the ex-ban score. A deflected penalty and three decisive saves, the Welshman postponed the first goal of the striker’s second career in blue. But after 2,064 days of sidelining, Karim Benzema has learned to take a step back from football. From this game without a stake, transformed into an event by his presence, the striker came out with a smile and retained “Pride, a lot of pride, a lot of joy”.
The 33-year-old center-forward is arguably sincere when he denies any possible frustration. “The main thing is to create the chances, to win and to do better next time to score a few more goals”, he promised at the microphone of TF1 after the meeting.
Birth of a trio?
Beyond the result and a possible 28e goal in selection, Benzema was expected and watched for his agreement with Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann. The Real Madrid player must restore binding and fluidity to a tricolor attack not always inspired during his last outings.
“Karim did not score, but with his expanded palette, he allowed the team to have mastery and complementarity with his partners, and not only those who are next to him, but also with the environment ground “, appreciated Didier Deschamps.
For its big premiere, the Benzema-Mbappé-Griezmann trio did not disappoint. There are automatisms to refine, connections to find, but the understanding seems natural, almost fluid. To the first two the front of the attack without fixed positions and according to the inspiration of the moment, to “Grizou” the role of free electron to survey the ground at will and come to seek the balloons a little lower. In this register, Benzema – attracted as much by the construction as the finish – did not come to trample on him.
It’s no secret that the two men like each other. In a world before, one where the sextape affair had not resulted in his sidelining, Benzema had campaigned internally during the 2014 World Cup to be associated with the young striker of Real Sociedad at the time, rather than with Olivier Giroud. Having become the captain of the Blues in the meantime, Griezmann wanted to welcome the ghost. He’s the one who takes the ball and offers it to the Real Madrid player to shoot – but miss – the penalty at the 25e minute.
On the previous action, Benzema is already prevented from scoring by a hand but that of the defender, Neco Williams. With a psychology as rare as his hair, the Portuguese referee M. Godinho expels the player in a strict application of the double penalty; enough to dismay his teammates and even upset the Blues.
In a preparation match, the opponent is also a partner. So, as many as 11. “I reassure you we all asked the referee not to expel the Welsh player, we would have preferred to play 11 against 11 but he followed the rules”, regrets the captain, from Nice, Hugo Lloris interviewed by TF1, the evening of his 100e with the cuff.
“The matches are won on the field, not on paper”
At eleven against ten, the Blues have worked on attack and defense, which after all can be useful in the perspective of the Euro. In this little game, Kylian Mbappé struck the first while opportunism (41e). Coming back from the locker room, Antoine Griezmann wrapped up a love of left-footed kicking and proved he is better than the complement player he has become, despite himself, at Barcelona.
At 79e minute, Karim Benzema carried out the sequence of the evening with a cushioning of the chest by moving back and a chained strike to find the post. Failing to count as an assist, this gives a ready goal to Ousmane Dembélé (79e), congratulated by number 19 with a friendly wink.
Twelve days before the Euro against Germany in Munich, Didier Deschamps is a satisfied coach but anxious to bring everyone back to earth. No doubt he heard some of his players a little too inflamed on their collective potential. “I think we have the best attack in Europe, in the world”, so advanced Kingsley Coman.
“Everything is going well, as expected, but we should not fall asleep on our laurels and think that our quality will suffice. We are on alert with our staff and the players are well aware of it too “, wanted to remind the coach. Interesting and valuable in the field, the return of Benzema has also contributed to making the Blues a sighted favorite of the next Euro.
There is a risk of seeing yourself a little too good-looking. Hugo Lloris sensed the danger this week, as a cautious man. “There is a lot of talent but matches are won on the pitch, not on paper, he said. We do not let ourselves be distracted by what is being said outside. ”
But reporting it proves the risk exists. For now, the presence of Karim Benzema has just allowed to dominate Welsh reduced to ten. The rest are fine promises, but promises first.