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Euro 2020: ‘Remarkable state of mind’ – Why France are excited about Karim Benzema return

Karim Benzema played for France for the first time in almost six years as they began their Euro 2020 build-up with a comfortable win over Wales.

The Real Madrid star did miss a penalty but for 73 minutes formed a new three-pronged attack alongside leading lights, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

So how did Benzema fare? Will the front three all fit in and what should France be wary of? Maxime Dupuis takes you Inside Europe…

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How did Benzema do after almost six years out?

He did pretty well, really. He only missed out on a goal due to two close headers, a missed penalty and the shot onto the post that gave Ousmane Dembele a goal on a plate. In short, a good comeback.

Above all, the most important thing for me is that this was first time with Mbappe and Griezmann not distorting the DNA of this team. I think it’s important that the three men didn’t step on each other’s toes for the 73 minutes they played together. To put it simply, Benzema played mostly in the box, while Mbappe went around him and Griezmann led the game. Quite promising.

This looks like a more dynamic formation, so can we expect a more exciting France?

Yes. And no! The DNA of this team is its solidity but when you have these kind of guys in attack… it’s very exciting.

But we are wary in France. The example of 2002, when Les Bleus arrived in South Korea with the top scorers from the leading French, Italian and English leagues, reminds us to be humble. In the end, they didn’t score a goal. It is true that this team might be seen like that, gives the impression of having a solid collective with quality individuals.

Are Benzema, Griezmann and Mbappe all ‘team players’ – or could egos clash?

It’s a question that has certainly come up, because it has to work on this point for it to work on the pitch. Concerning Griezmann, he has no ego. He’s a great team player. Intelligent and dedicated to others. So, for him, it’s is no problem. He plays for others. Besides, he didn’t take the penalty against Wales, did he?

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Benzema showed a remarkable state of mind in the game, too. It’s a question that arose with his return, but we didn’t have the impression that we were seeing a guy who had already won 81 caps. As for Mbappe? The rising star, he has an ego. But Deschamps is there…

How important is Kante to France’s chances?

See Chelsea and you have the answer! Watching Kante run all over the a pitch is a fascinating experience. It’s like a rubber band that always comes back to the player he follows. An exceptional footballer, too, and the focal point of the midfield, where Paul Pogba’s performances for the French team have been of the highest level since the 2018 World Cup. Kante is a game-changer.

What area worries you the most going into Euro 2020?

It’s hard to say. Against Wales, the only small point of concern was on the sides. We didn’t take four right-backs like England but we have an established defence, with Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard out full-backs. They struggled a bit in the first half, but there is no need to worry yet, even if there remains a question mark against Pavard. Go back to 2018 and he was the one with the biggest problems on the pitch.


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