How do you improve a World Cup winning team? Easy. Add one of the best strikers in the world, a series winner at Real Madrid with a formidable scoring record, and match him with the best young player in the world.
Benzema’s return from international exile means no one will seriously dispute France’s favorites for the European Championship. “That will be the team to beat,” said Patrick Vieira, the Arsenal legend and World Cup winner in 1998 and European Championship winner in 2000, the last time France had such a range of talent.
In 2000, their last Euro win, France had Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff, with Vieira and current manager Didier Deschamps in midfield. Now they have Kylian Mbappe, arguably the best young player in the world, with Antoine Griezmann and Benzema, with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba in midfield.
Karim Benzema’s return to the French squad makes her one of the favorites for the European Championship
How would the 2021 class fare against the 1998-2000 team? “You know I don’t like to compare generations, but I think it would be a very interesting game,” says Vieira.
“If someone wants to win the European Championship, they have to beat France. With Benzema they are even stronger. I like this player. I’m really happy he came back because his talent has to be at the top of the leagues. Seeing him wearing the French jersey again makes me really happy.
“And with him in the team, we have a better chance of winning the European Championship again. I’m really excited about this French team because if you look at the front three, you look at the midfield, you look at the back, we look really solid.”
The striker missed a penalty in a 3-0 win over Wales, but scored 30 goals for Real Madrid last season
As always, it’s never that simple. France may have the best squad by far, but Benzema’s return is an intriguing gamble from Deschamps, given the history between the pair. No doubt he will make France better. Griezmann played behind a front two of Mbappe and Benzema on Wednesday night, who missed a penalty in the 3-0 win over Wales.
Nevertheless, Deschamps said afterwards: “His technical range allows the team to exert more control in the game.” That sounded, probably unintentionally, like a dig at Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, who has been the central striker since a sordid blackmail scandal that saw Benzema evicted from the team.
With Giroud and without Benzema, France won the World Cup, so some diplomacy is needed. “Karim isn’t stupid,” Deschamps said. “He knows he’s coming back to a group that has won titles.”
There is so much history between important personalities, it’s hard to believe that everything has been forgiven and forgotten. Benzema, when asked to compare himself to Giroud, said: “You don’t confuse Formula 1 with karting. And I’m nice.’
France won the 2018 World Cup with Olivier Giroud (with the trophy) and without Benzema
It has been said that Giroud and Benzema will share a dining table during meals at the camp in France this summer.
Benzema also once said that Deschamps was “bent to pressure from a racist part of France” by excluding him in 2015. That led to graffiti being daubed on Deschamps’ house, accusing the manager of being a racist.
Just six months ago, when asked about the impact, Deschamps said: “It’s a stain. Even if it calms down a bit over time, I can’t forget it. It’s not just about Karim Benzema. There are also statements from others that led to this violent act, which affects my family.’
It all goes back to 2015 when Mathieu Valbuena, a French national teammate, was approached by Benzema. The striker told his colleague that friends of his had a private sex tape of Valbuena in their possession and that it was best to talk to the gang if he wanted it destroyed. Leaked recordings of phone calls from Benzema speaking to the blackmail gang were both extraordinary and seemingly damning.
Benzema and four others will face charges in October for allegedly blackmailing Mathieu Valbuena
“I don’t think he takes us seriously,” Benzema is said to have told one of the blackmailers.
Benzema told how he told Valbuena ‘you can see everything’ on the tape’ and added: ‘Do what you want, if you don’t want to pay it’s your life, but I warned you.’ Valbuena went to the police. Benzema, who is on trial in October along with four others, denies collaborating with the gang. Valbuena’s career in France ended in 2015.
Given the circumstances, it was perhaps understandable that Benzema could not stay with the roster in 2015. As such, he missed their run to the Euro 2016 final, where France lost to Portugal, and their 2018 World Cup win. It’s hard to imagine an English player being recalled when he’s on the cusp of playing in such a match. high-profile trial charged with such a serious crime.
But Deschamps has indicated that there has been an extraordinary rapprochement between manager and striker.
“I’m not going to talk about our discussion,” he told French TV channel TF1. ‘But it took a very, very long time: there were many exchanges. You want me to talk about unpleasant things… there’s a word, “racist.” ‘I’m not the same since that day. I don’t see things the same way, I have disconnected myself from everything. It was a very violent time. Things have changed. From my side, but also from Karim.’
Didier Deschamps indicated that there has been an extraordinary rapprochement between manager and striker
Speaking to the press, Deschamps added: ‘He has undoubtedly grown in maturity, in serenity. The things we do when we’re 20, we don’t do when we’re 25. And the things we do when we’re 25, we don’t do when we’re 30.”
Deschamps admitted there was a mutual benefit. There is no denying that Benzema, 33, who scored 30 goals for Real last season, will improve the team on paper. And for all their stellar prowess, France’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine and the inconclusive 2-0 and 1-0 victories over Kazakhstan and Bosnia in March played their part in cooling the head even more than it did. passage of time.
Should France fulfill their destiny, then perhaps all will be forgiven and forgotten by then, notwithstanding the lawsuit.