Three Things We Learned From Real Madrid Vs Manchester City

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid produced another barely believable Champions League fightback to beat Manchester City 3-1 after extra time on Wednesday and reach the final 6-5 on aggregate.

The Spanish champions will take on Liverpool in Paris on May 28 in a repeat of the 1981 and 2018 finals.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a classic semi-final.

City’s Champions League pain goes onPep Guardiola’s reign in Manchester is four games away from delivering four Premier League titles in the past five years.

But the one trophy they really want remains elusive as another shot at the Champions League spectacularly blew up in their faces.

It is now 11 years since Guardiola last lifted Europe’s biggest prize as Barcelona boss.

 

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. – Real Madrid won the match 3-1. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

The defensive frailties and fragile mentality of his early seasons at City in this competition seemed to have been washed away by a run to the club’s first ever final last season.

For 89 minutes, they looked like a side maturing under the intense spotlight the latter stages of the Champions League provides.

But that will only make this collapse hurt all the more.

City will look back on the chances wasted to kill off the Spanish giants in both legs as four times they let a two-goal advantage in the tie slip away.

Now they have to rouse themselves quickly to prevent that pain being compounded by also seeing Liverpool snatch away the Premier League title.

Madrid young guns lead the old guard of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric got most of the credit for Real’s revivals to beat Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea just to make it to the last four.

 

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

However, the introduction of Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga also helped swing those second legs at a bouncing Bernabeu in the home side’s favour.

Rodrygo had scored two goals all season until taking the Chelsea tie to extra time last month.

With City leading 1-0 on the night thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s strike and 5-3 on aggregate, the Brazilian transformed the tie by scoring twice in 88 seconds as the game entered stoppage time.

Camavinga’s powerful run beyond the tiring legs of the City midfield then set up the winner as Benzema lured Ruben Dias into a mistimed challenge in the box.

Carlo Ancelotti has consistently kept faith with his veterans all season.

But there are only so many times the Italian can be rescued by his young guns off the bench.

 

Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo celebrates with teammates after the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

Camavinga and Rodrygo are entitled to believe they deserve to start against Liverpool.

Money can’t buy Madrid’s mentality

The tradition of the 13-time European champions has not stopped Madrid from being the biggest supporters of a breakaway Super League.

Behind their reasoning has been a fear that they can no longer compete financially for the world’s best players up against the state-backed wealth of PSG and City, or even billionaire-backed clubs like Chelsea have been under Roman Abramovich.

However, they have eliminated all three in a remarkable run to their 17th European Cup final.

 

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

 

“We are the kings of Europe” reverberated around the Bernabeu once Benzema slotted home the crucial penalty.

For all the billions thrown at this competition by PSG and City, they remain without a European Cup between them.

The Madrid tradition of success is something money can’t buy.

Benzema To The Rescue As Real Madrid Beat Chelsea On Aggregate To Reach Semi-Finals

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Chelsea FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 12, 2022. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Chelsea FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 12, 2022. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Luka Modric turned the tie and Karim Benzema settled it as Real Madrid held off a sensational fightback from Chelsea on Tuesday to win an enthralling Champions League quarter-final 5-4 on aggregate.

Chelsea wiped out Madrid’s 3-1 lead from the first leg in stunning fashion at the Santiago Bernabeu as Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner put Europe’s reigning champions on the brink of a incredible victory.

But the 36-year-old Modric intervened with another moment of genius to add to the very best of his glittering career, a sumptuous pass with the outside of his right foot setting up Rodrygo to volley in and sending a nerve-shredding contest into extra time.

After scoring a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, Benzema then stepped forward to claim the winner, the Frenchman capitalising on a Rudiger slip to head in, a 3-2 defeat enough to see Madrid into the semi-finals.

At the final whistle, Modric and Benzema dropped to the floor, their combined 70 years of age belying another two vintage contributions that have dragged Real Madrid in sight of a 14th European Cup.

They will face either Manchester City or rivals Atletico Madrid in the last four.

After being thrashed by Brentford and then outplayed by Madrid in the first leg last week, Chelsea came in rejuvenated after putting six past Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.

Thomas Tuchel said on Monday they would need a “fantastic script” to pull off this comeback and they certainly delivered that, their only failing an inability to prevent Modric and Benzema doing what they have done so many times before.

Mount’s goal in the 15th minute set the tone, Madrid immediately consumed by tension and Chelsea given early hope.

Mateo Kovacic had been key in the build-up but it was Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s quick pass into Werner that caught Madrid cold, the German steering the ball with his knee into the path of Mount, who advanced and fired past Courtois.

For 20 minutes, Chelsea were dictating, Madrid pegged back. Reece James was doing a fine job restricting Vinicius Junior, blocking Madrid’s escape route.

Chelsea take command

Benzema, Modric and Toni Kroos tried to wrestle back control but Chelsea’s authority was even more pronounced early in the second half and within minutes they had a second, Rudiger rising high at the back post to head in from a corner.

With their lead gone, Madrid briefly exerted, the crowd coming into the contest. But Chelsea were celebrating a third when Marcos Alonso pivoted round Dani Carvajal’s sliding tackle and slammed into the top corner.

Madrid looked beaten, the stadium dead, but the referee was waiting. VAR spotted Alonso had controlled with his hand and when the decision was reversed, the Bernabeu erupted.

With 28 minutes left, the tie was back in the balance. Madrid had renewed impetus and almost scored, Benzema’s looping header at the back post dropping onto the crossbar.

But it was brief, Chelsea coming again in the 73rd minute as Kovacic slid through Werner, who coolly slalomed past two sliding Madrid defenders and sent a deflected finish dribbling into the corner.

A disappointed Kroos was taken off before a wild contest turned again on the moment of magic from Modric. With the outside of his foot, Modric stroked a 30-yard pass over to the right of the penalty area where Rodrygo, on as a substitute, volleyed in.

Chelsea looked the more likely to nick a late winner and nearly did, Kai Havertz nodding across the six-yard box but Christian Pulisic shot over.

Into extra time and Madrid found another gear, Vinicius finally finding space to tear into. His floated cross might have been easily cleared by Rudiger but the defender slipped, giving Benzema just enough space to guide his header in.

Chelsea, so composed all night, suddenly looked ragged. Eduardo Camavinga fired over. Courtois Cruyff-turned around Havertz.

But they threw everything at Madrid in the final minutes, Courtois saving from Werner before Fede Valverde had to block a shot from Thiago Silva. Edouard Mendy went up for a final corner but it was cleared, Madrid holding on.

 

AFP

Injured Benzema To Miss Clasico And France Friendlies

 In this file photo taken on March 5, 2022 Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 5, 2022 Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Real Madrid’s top scorer Karim Benzema will miss the Clasico against Barcelona and the upcoming France internationals with a calf injury, coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Saturday. 

Real enter the weekend 10 points clear at the top of La Liga. They are 15 points ahead of third-place Barcelona, who they host on Sunday evening.

Benzema was included in the France squad announced on Thursday by Didier Deschamps for friendlies against Ivory Coast on March 25 and South Africa on March 29.

“We never take risks with him,” said Ancelotti. “He still has some pain. It’s a small injury, but it prevents him from training and playing,”

READ ALSO: Saka Sends Arsenal Closer To Champions League Return

The international break allows Benzema more time to recover.

“We will have two weeks to prepare him for the end of the season, where he will be very important, as always. He’s always come back from little glitches like this, and he’s always made a difference.”

Benzema scored twice on Monday in Mallorca to take his career total to 413 goals, breaking a tie with Thierry Henry at the top of the all-time list of French scorers.

Benzema limped off in the 87th minute visibly bothered by a pain in the left calf, leaving his teammates to finish the game with 10 men.

He is by some distance the top scorer in La Liga with 22 goals. Team-mate Vinicius Junior is tied for second on 14.

Ancelotti has plenty of options. Vinicius, Rodrygo and Marco Asensio have played most this season, but the coach could also recall Mariano Diaz, Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale.

“Everything is decided, but I will not tell you anything,” Ancelotti said.

“We want to be at our best and it’ll be a game that involves a lot of different elements. We can’t go thinking that doing just one thing well will be enough to win the game. We’re going to have to produce a strong all-round performance,” he said.

 

AFP

UCL: Benzema Scores As Real Madrid Thrash Shakhtar Donetsk

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after Shakhtar Donetsk's Ukrainian defender Serhiy Kryvtsov scored an own goal during the UEFA Champions League football match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on October 19, 2021. Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ukrainian defender Serhiy Kryvtsov scored an own goal during the UEFA Champions League football match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on October 19, 2021.
Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

Real Madrid thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday as Karim Benzema scored on the eve of his trial in France on charges of complicity in blackmail.

A first-half own goal from Serhiy Kryvtsov put Real on their way before Vinicius Junior scored two superb goals before setting up Rodrygo for the fourth.

Benzema added the fifth in injury time in a game played in Kiev.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Star Benzema Goes On Trial In Sextape Case

The French international striker goes on trial in France on Wednesday with four other men accused of complicity in the attempted blackmail of his former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena in a case known as the “sextape affair”.

It is not known if Benzema will be present for the start of the trial.

It was a welcome win for Real, the 13-time European champions, after they slipped to an embarrassing home defeat to Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol in their last match.

Sheriff lost 3-1 to Inter Milan on Tuesday but Real are still second to them in Group D with both clubs on six points.

 

AFP

Real Madrid Star Benzema Goes On Trial In Sextape Case

France’s forward Karim Benzema reacts as he takes part a training session at the Olympic stadium in Turin, on October 8, 2021 two days prior to the UEFA Nations League final football match between Spain and France. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes on trial in France on Wednesday accused of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena in a case known as the “sextape affair”.

Benzema, 33, stands accused of helping a group of alleged blackmailers to approach Valbuena in an attempt to extort money. Four other men are also on trial.

The case cost both Benzema and 37-year-old Valbuena their place in the French national team, although Benzema was restored to the lineup for this year’s European championship.

The case centres on the role that Benzema is suspected of playing in the murky affair six years ago, which started when Valbuena handed his smartphone to Axel Angot, a man connected to footballing circles in the southern port city of Marseille, with the request to transfer its contents to a new device.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Fires Napoli To Top Of Serie A

Angot, now on trial for breach of trust, came across sexually explicit footage on the phone involving Valbuena.

Prosecutors says he then explored ways — together with a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui — to approach Valbuena and threaten publication of the footage unless he paid them.

Valbuena received several calls in June 2015 threatening exposure of the footage, which he reported to police.

The blackmailers then went to former French international Djibril Cisse, who refused to act as their messenger, instead warning Valbuena of what was brewing.

Cisse, who played for Premier League club Liverpool during his career, was initially charged in the case, but later cleared.

What followed is an imbroglio involving several shadowy middlemen, one of whom turned out to be an undercover agent called “Luka” placed by police who were trying to get proof before taking action against the protagonists.

Eventually the presumed blackmailers went to one of Benzema’s old friends, Karim Zenati, who prosecutors say enlisted Benzema’s help to reach Valbuena.

‘Very heavy criminals’

On Oct 6, 2015, Benzema went to see Valbuena in his room at the French national team’s training centre at Clairefontaine, west of Paris.

He told his teammate that he could introduce him to a “trustworthy person” to help him “manage” the possible publication of a compromising video.

In what Benzema later claimed was an attempt to help his teammate out of a difficult situation, he told him: “Be careful ‘Math’, these are very, very heavy criminals.”

Benzema then called his childhood friend Karim Zenati, who was by then acting as an intermediary for the alleged blackmailers, and told him in a conversation wiretapped by police: “He’s not taking us seriously.”

Prosecutors say that the word “us” proves that Benzema saw himself as part of the blackmail scheme.

Valbuena said later that the conversation left him with the feeling that he was “being played for a fool”.

“If he doesn’t want us to handle this for him, he’ll have to deal with the piranhas,” Zenati said, claiming later that all he wanted to do was alert Valbuena to the existence of the video.

Benzema replied that “they will piss on him”, and in a subsequent conversation referred to Valbuena with a derogatory term for a homosexual, which he said later was meant “in a friendly way”.

The maximum sentence for complicity in attempted blackmail is five years in prison and a fine of 70,000 euros ($81,000).

Benzema has argued that the undercover police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair.

It was unclear on Monday whether the striker, who is scheduled to play for Real Madrid against Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League match in Ukraine on Tuesday, will attend the trial. His lawyers did not respond to AFP’s requests for clarification.

Valbuena, who now plays for Greek club Olympiakos, will be present, his lawyer said.

The sextape case caused Benzema to be exiled from France’s national football team for years — a decision he called ‘racist’ — but the striker returned to “Les Bleus” this year in time for the European championship.

France coach Didier Deschamps said this month that “he’s no longer the same person, he’s matured”.

Benzema has scored a total of 243 goals for Real and remains a key part of their side.

Real Madrid Striker Benzema Tests Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 3, 2021 Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Eibar at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas on the outskirts of Madrid. – Benzema has tested positive for Covid-19, the Spanish club announced on July 23, 2021. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has tested positive for coronavirus, the club has confirmed.

In a short statement on their official website issued on Friday morning, Madrid said: “Real Madrid C.F. confirm that our player Karim Benzema has tested positive for Covid-19.”

The France international will now self-isolate for a period of time away from his teammates as new manager Carlo Ancelotti prepares for the new season.

England Face Germany In Euro 2020 Blockbuster After France Make Shock Exit

England’s defender Kyle Walker (C) takes part in an MD-1 training session at the team’s base camp in St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, on June 28, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match against Germany. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

 

 

England can avenge decades of hurt at the hands of Germany when they face their old rivals in a blockbuster Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday after the tournament was rocked by France’s stunning exit.

Gareth Southgate’s side host Germany at Wembley at 1600 GMT in what is England’s biggest match on home turf for 25 years.

England beat the Germans to win the 1966 World Cup final, but their major tournament history has been littered with painful exits against them since then.

 

Germany supporters pose before the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / various sources / AFP)

 

A quarter-final loss at the 1970 World Cup ended England’s reign as champions, while the 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat on penalties is still etched in the nation’s psyche.

When England last played at home in a tournament, Southgate was the Euro 96 fall guy as he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat.

There was also a heavy defeat at the 2010 World Cup yet Southgate, aware of the debilitating weight of that history, insists the tie is not a chance to exorcise the ghosts of past England failures.

Instead, he believe it is a chance for his players to add a memorable new chapter to their personal stories.

“This team, I’ve said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed,” Southgate said.

“This is about our players. This is their moment and it’s their opportunity.”

– ‘Loser goes home’ –
Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 pain would give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said: “Good grief, no. I don’t think we’ll be relying on that!

“So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that.”

England have never won the European Championship and a victory against Germany would be only their second knockout stage win in the history of the competition.

In contrast, Germany have been crowned kings of Europe three times, with the most recent success coming in 1996.

However, Germany travelled to London in the unusual position of fearing defeat against England.

Joachim Loew’s team stumbled into the last 16 after rescuing a 2-2 draw against Hungary in their final group game.

Germany are not the intimidating force of old and, with Loew stepping down at the end of the tournament, a defeat would signal the end of an era.

Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, Loew has been criticised for his role in a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and a series of poor results before the Euro.

“All in all, I thought about it for two seconds,” said Loew ahead of potentially his last game.

“This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match and I hope we will succeed.”

England will have the vast majority of a 40,000 crowd on their side at Wembley and Loew expects a spine-tingling encounter.

“This is a match which electrifies everybody. For both teams, it’s in or out, it’s now or never, the loser goes home,” he said.

The winner will face a quarter-final in Rome against the winner of Tuesday’s late tie between Sweden and Ukraine, which will be played in Glasgow.

 

TOPSHOT – France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (L) reacts to his miss as Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer celebrates his save during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

France’s forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after missing a penalty in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

– Mbappe misses decisive penalty –
Whatever happens on Tuesday it will struggle to live up to the drama of Monday, when world champions France suffered a stunning defeat against Switzerland, losing 5-4 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bucharest as Kylian Mbappe missed the vital kick.

France trailed to Haris Seferovic’s first-half header and could have fallen further behind when Ricardo Rodriguez’s 55th-minute penalty was saved by Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema scored twice in 244 seconds immediately after that miss to put France ahead.

Paul Pogba increased their lead with a stunning strike, but Seferovic struck again in the 81st minute and Mario Gavranovic equalised in stoppage time.

Yann Sommer was Switzerland’s hero in the shootout as the goalkeeper saved Mbappe’s penalty to seal an incredible giant-killing.

“Penalties are always cruel for one team and unfortunately it was us,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“We are not used to it, but we will have to accept it.”

 

Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer reacts after saving a shot by France’s forward Kylian Mbappe in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

In the quarter-finals, Switzerland face Spain, who hit back for an epic 5-3 extra-time win against Croatia after blowing the lead in Copenhagen.

Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres netted to put Spain 3-1 ahead with 13 minutes left after Pedri’s own goal had given Croatia the lead.

Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic scored in the last five minutes to force extra time, but Spain prevailed thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Benzema Delighted To Lift ‘Pressure’ With First Goals Since France Return

From L: France’s midfielder Paul Pogba, France’s coach Didier Deschamps, France’s forward Karim Benzema, France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Portugal’s midfielder Bruno Fernandes react after the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 23, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

Karim Benzema said he was delighted to score his first goals for France since 2015 against Portugal on Wednesday, as there was “a little pressure” on him across the country.

The Real Madrid striker was brought back for Euro 2020 by coach Didier Deschamps after a five-and-a-half year exile from international football over his alleged role in a blackmail plot.

Benzema failed to score in his first four matches since returning for France, who won the 2018 World Cup without him.

But he netted a first-half penalty in the final Group F game against Portugal before slotting in a second to end his long wait.

“A lot of joy, a lot of pride,” he said to BeIN Sports.

“I think everyone was waiting for it. There was a little pressure on me from all over the country but I’m a footballer, a professional — I need that pressure.”

A 2-2 draw, which also saw Cristiano Ronaldo score twice to equal the all-time international goalscoring record, sent France through as group winners.

Deschamps’ men will face Switzerland in the last 16 on Monday in Bucharest.

 

France’s forward Karim Benzema (R) fights for the ball with Portugal’s forward Diogo Jota during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 23, 2021. (Photo by BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP)

 

“He (Benzema) was looking for that. He hasn’t lost his confidence, or mine,” Deschamps told TF1.

“We will recover well and then we’ll prepare for that (Switzerland game) as well as possible.”

‘I Want A Trophy’ – Benzema Eyes Silverware After Long France Exile

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (R) vies with Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema said he’s targeting a trophy with France after he was recalled to their provisional Euro 2020 squad following a controversial, six-year international exile.

The prolific star, sidelined by Les Bleus since 2015 over his alleged role in a blackmail plot, missed out on France’s 2018 World Cup win and their run to the Euro 2016 final on home soil.

Benzema, 33, told L’Equipe he was “proud” of his call-up, which followed talks with France coach Didier Deschamps earlier this month.

“I want to win a trophy with the French team,” he said, adding that he hoped to “bring a little bit extra” to the World Cup-winners.

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international appearances, was last week named as this season’s best French foreign-based player by the country’s players’ association.

He top-scored for Real Madrid with 29 goals this term, passing 20 league goals in all three seasons since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

Benzema has repeatedly criticised Deschamps and the French Football Federation for being dropped, citing racism as a factor in his axing from the Euro 2016 squad.

But he said those differences were in the past after his conversation with the coach.

“We said many things. Things that we needed to say for a long time. It was a good explanation, with important words,” Benzema said.

He added: “I’m not coming to the French team to overshadow anyone or to take anyone’s place. … I am here to bring what I know.”

France kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against three-time winners Germany in Munich on June 15, and also face Hungary and holders Portugal in Group F.

‘I Want A Trophy’ – Benzema Eyes Silverware After Long France Exile

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 9, 2015 France’s forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the friendly football match between France and Armenia at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. French head coach Deschamps calls Benzema back into the national team for the upcoming Euro, AFP reports on May 18, 2021.
Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema said he’s targeting a trophy with France after he was recalled to their provisional Euro 2020 squad following a controversial, six-year international exile.

The prolific star, sidelined by Les Bleus since 2015 over his alleged role in a blackmail plot, missed out on France’s 2018 World Cup win and their run to the Euro 2016 final on home soil.

Benzema, 33, told L’Equipe he was “proud” of his call-up, which followed talks with France coach Didier Deschamps earlier this month.

“I want to win a trophy with the French team,” he said, adding that he hoped to “bring a little bit extra” to the World Cup-winners.

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international appearances, was last week named as this season’s best French foreign-based player by the country’s players’ association.

He top-scored for Real Madrid with 29 goals this term, passing 20 league goals in all three seasons since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

Benzema has repeatedly criticised Deschamps and the French Football Federation for being dropped, citing racism as a factor in his axing from the Euro 2016 squad.

But he said those differences were in the past after his conversation with the coach.

“We said many things. Things that we needed to say for a long time. It was a good explanation, with important words,” Benzema said.

He added: “I’m not coming to the French team to overshadow anyone or to take anyone’s place. … I am here to bring what I know.”

France kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against three-time winners Germany in Munich on June 15 and also face Hungary and holders Portugal in Group F.

-AFP

Benzema Embodies Survival Spirit After Leading Another Real Madrid Recovery

Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante (2R) challenges Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid might not reach the Champions League final but Karim Benzema has given them a chance, his genius against Chelsea the embodiment of a team that still never knows when it is beaten.

Benzema’s thunderbolt volley gives Madrid parity at the end of a first leg that could have been won decisively by Chelsea, who were the superior team overall and, for 25 minutes, made their opponents look weary, rigid, even out of date.

But the most recent additions to Real Madrid’s 13 European Cups have come from their ability to bend these matches to their will, to weather the storms and then accelerate when the wind is behind them.

Again and again, they have shown themselves to be masters of moments, their belief that in the end they will win creating certainty when it is needed most and for their opponents, doubt, just when they think they have the upper hand.

It comes from a history of success and the hubris of a club convinced it has earned the right even to play in a Super League, only ever against the biggest teams, bypassing the need to qualify, and for theoretical fans that see Real Madrid winning as the beginning and end of the sport.

It comes from a coach too in Zinedine Zidane, whose philosophy is not so much possession or pressing but calm, and players, like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and on Tuesday night, Benzema.

Eight minutes before his goal, it was Benzema stirring the first signs of recovery. He robbed the ball off Antonio Rudiger on the halfway line and played two passes, each time demanding it back, before circling into the centre and firing off a shot that shaved the outside of the post.

In the stadium, it was a trigger, Madrid’s substitutes raised to their feet and Ramos behind them also standing up, flapping his hands and shouting “Come on guys! That’s it! A bit more now! Believe!”

Chelsea’s were still in charge but from that moment their dominance began to fade. Benzema turbo-charged another counter-attack down the right, his punching pass out to Toni Kroos on the opposite side the one that led to Kroos winning the corner, that led to Benzema throwing his body at the ball and the ball flying into Chelsea’s net.

 

Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Ruediger (C) challenges Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

‘No doubts’ Benzema among the best

“Benzema took responsibility in reviving the belief of a team that appeared to be creaking, and to a large extent they are, but so often they find something more,” wrote El Pais.

Marca said: “There are no doubts remaining that Benzema belongs to the most distinguished class of footballers.” “He woke the team up,” wrote AS.

When Benzema signed his first professional contract with Lyon, he was made to give an initiation speech at a squad dinner and the cocky 20-year-old irked some of the senior players by telling them he would soon be taking their place.

Thirteen years later, he is the fourth most prolific goalscorer in the history of the Champions League, level on 71 with Raul, behind only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski.

If recognition has come late, it is in part because Benzema has saved his best until last, his flourishing into a graceful but deadly number nine occurring after many had perhaps made their minds up: Ronaldo’s support act could never be among the very best himself.

And yet just as his late equaliser against Atletico Madrid last month gave Real Madrid life in La Liga, it was his intervention against Chelsea that has now them alive in the Champions League too.

“Nothing surprises me about Karim,” said Zidane, who had earlier taken him off in the 89th minute, the kind of substitution usually designed to give the home crowd the chance to applaud.

Instead, Zidane stepped in, smiling, whispering, an arm around his shoulder, another moment seized and the final still in sight.

La Liga: Benzema To The Rescue Again As Madrid Beat Elche

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, northeast of Madrid, on March 13, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, northeast of Madrid, on March 13, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Karim Benzema saved Real Madrid for the second week running on Saturday, his two goals dragging his team to a 2-1 win over struggling Elche in La Liga. 

After Benzema’s late equaliser salvaged a draw against Atletico Madrid last weekend, the Frenchman came up trumps again, a brilliant shot flying in off the post in the 91st minute to snatch a crucial home victory at Valdebebas.

Real Madrid move five points behind Atletico in La Liga although Diego Simeone’s team can restore their advantage to eight by beating Getafe later on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski Equals Goal Milestone As Bayern Power Past Bremen

Barcelona, who are six points back, face bottom club Huesca on Monday.

Benzema recovered from injury just in time to play Atletico and his three goals since have earned his team four points in seven days, while also denying Atletico a crucial win.

After heading in the equaliser against Elche, Benzema delivered a special winner, catching the ball in the air with a superb shot that found the far corner.

“It was a beautiful goal and it won us three points, so I’m happier than ever,” he said.

Sergio Ramos returned from a knee injury to make his first appearance since January, although the defender came off shortly after an hour, meaning his availability for Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to Atalanta is perhaps not guaranteed.

Eden Hazard, who has also been out since January, came off the bench in the second half and could play in midweek, when Madrid will start with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were rested, perhaps with that game in mind, but both were needed by Zidane before the end.

And a change in system to three at the back was not an obvious success as Zidane’s team struggled to break down an Elche side that sit 17th.

“Against teams that sit back, it’s always difficult,” said Zidane. “We had to find a solution and in the end we found a gap.”

Madrid were the better team in the first half but there was hardly a chance to show for it, the only real opening falling to Benzema at the back post as Fede Valverde released Vinicius Junior down the right but his cross bounced awkwardly for Benzema, who shot wide.

Both sides wanted penalties early in the second half, with Elche’s Ivan Marcone fortunate to be awarded a free-kick when he looked more culpable in a tangle with Ramos.

Then Ramos escaped punishment for a challenge on Guido Carrillo.

Shortly after, Elche took the lead. Ramos shielded his eyes as if struggling with the sun and the corner found Dani Calvo, who climbed above Raphael Varane to head in off the crossbar.

Ramos, Isco and Fede Valverde made way for Modric, Kroos and Rodrygo, and 10 minutes later Madrid were level. Modric collected a short corner and swung a cross into the back post, where Benzema nodded in.

There were 17 minutes left to find a winner but it came in injury-time. Benzema scooped the ball up to Rodrygo on the edge of the area. He cushioned it back to the striker, who caught the ball in the air with a brilliant shot that flew in off the far post.

 

AFP