Karim Benzema is in line for a return to the France squad for the delayed 2020 European Championship. Le Parisien first reported the news, which has since been reported by various sources including L’Equipe, ESPN and Marca. Benzema has not featured for the national squad since 2015, following his involvement in a blackmail scandal with former teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
Karim Benzema Set for Return to France Euros Squad
Why Karim Benzema has not Featured since 2015
Karim Benzema’s last appearance for France was a friendly against Armenia, on 10th August 2015. He was dropped following his alleged involvement in the blackmail of his France teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Although the exact details have not been revealed, it is believed that Benzema was an intermediary between the blackmailers and Valbuena.
The blackmailers in question threatened to release an intimate video of Valbuena. Benzema allegedly pressured Valbuena to pay the blackmailers directly, however, he instead went straight to the police. Benzema denies any wrongdoing in the case, in which he is set to face trial for later this year.
France manager Didier Deschamps decided to drop both Benzema and Valbuena following the scandal. The Real Madrid striker faced a lot of criticism for his involvement; then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that Benzema had “no place” in the national team. Benzema claimed that Deschamps had given into racist pressure when he was not included in the Euro 2016 squad.
Benzema’s France Career
Benzema made his debut for France as a 19-year-old, in a friendly against Austria, scoring his first goal in the process. He featured in Euro 2008 the following year, although failed to impress as France collected just one point from the group stage.
He was not selected for the 2010 World Cup, in which France crashed out at the group stage. After being recalled for Euro 2012, in which France were knocked out in the quarter-finals to eventual champions Spain, Benzema then shone at the 2014 World Cup.
He was France’s go-to man in Brazil, scoring three goals and setting up a further two. France again would go on to lose to the eventual winners, Germany. In total, despite not playing for France since 2015, Benzema has racked up 81 appearances, scoring 27 goals. Now 33-years-old, Benzema will hope to add to his tally at the upcoming European Championships.
Karim has become Real Madrid’s strongest attacking threat since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. He has scored over 20 league goals in each of the past three seasons. Deschamps clearly believes that he can replicate that form for France, looking to add to the World Cup they lifted three years ago.
Competition with Giroud
Olivier Giroud has been the favoured man up-front under Didier Deschamps during Benzema’s absence. He played a big part as France won the 2018 World Cup, despite not even registering a single shot on target during the tournament. Giroud is the second top goalscorer of all time for France, now just seven shy of Thierry Henry’s 51.
Despite seeing his playing time limited at Chelsea, Giroud has still enjoyed a healthy amount of playing time for France. It will be interesting to see who Deschamps will favour at this summer’s Euros. Giroud and Benzema have developed something of a rivalry in recent seasons.
During a Q&A on Instagram in March 2020, Benzema said: “You can’t confuse an F1 car with a go-kart, and I’m being kind.” Despite his comments, Giroud insists that he has never had a dispute with the Real Madrid striker.
Nevertheless, Benzema’s poised return to the France national squad can only improve an already frightening French side. It will be fascinating to see him link up with the likes of Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.