Benzema handed start against Wales on France return alongside Griezmann and Mbappe

By Sports Desk June 02, 2021

Karim Benzema was included in France's starting line-up for Wednesday's friendly with Wales in Nice, ending the Real Madrid striker's near six-year absence from the side.

The 33-year-old's most recent appearance for Les Blues came in October 2015 when scoring a brace against Armenia, taking his tally to 27 goals in 81 international appearances.

He then became embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena - Benzema has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October - and was subsequently overlooked by Didier Deschamps.

That was until last month, however, when Benzema was surprisingly recalled to the squad ahead of the Euro 2020 finals after holding face-to-face talks with Deschamps.

The prolific striker's recall comes on the back of a campaign in which he scored 30 goals for Madrid in all competitions, 23 of those in LaLiga – behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (30).

Some 68 months on from his last outing for France, Benzema was back involved on Wednesday in a star-studded front three alongside Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

The friendly at Allianz Riviera also marked a special occasion for Hugo Lloris, who was captaining his national side from the start of a game for the 100th time.

That is 46 more than any other player in Les Bleus history, with Deschamps next on the list.

Chelsea's Champions League-winning trio Kurt Zouma, N'Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud were not involved, while Thomas Lemar was also absent through injury.

Wales also named a strong line-up for their penultimate match before the European Championship finals get under way, with Gareth Bale captaining his side.

Related items

  • Milan 0-0 Juventus: Ibrahimovic injured as Rossoneri lose further ground in Serie A title race Milan 0-0 Juventus: Ibrahimovic injured as Rossoneri lose further ground in Serie A title race

    Milan lost further ground to Inter in the Serie A title race after they were held to an insipid 0-0 draw by Juventus at San Siro.

    Stefano Pioli's side suffered a damaging 2-1 home defeat to Spezia on Monday and a return to winning ways never looked likely against an unambitious Bianconeri outfit, who failed to register a single shot on target.

    The hosts' woes were compounded when Zlatan Ibrahimovic hobbled off in the first half, with neither set of players stepping up after that to prevent Milan and Juve drawing both their games in a single Serie A campaign for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

    The stalemate meant Milan ended the weekend in third place, four points adrift of leaders Inter having played a game more, while Juve remained in fifth.

    Milan did most of the pressing in the early stages, with their best effort coming in the 20th minute when Wojciech Szczesny got down well to paw away Rafael Leao's strike from the edge of the penalty area.

    They suffered a blow shortly after the midway point in the first half when Ibrahimovic sustained an injury and was replaced by Olivier Giroud, the France international largely toiling in attack before the interval.

    The former Chelsea striker saw a header kept out by Szczesny in the 70th minute – one of very few chances in a miserable second half. 

    Juve appeared content to settle for a point for much of the match, with Massimiliano Allegri stretching his unbeaten run against Pioli as a coach in Serie A to a whopping 16 games - with 11 wins and five draws.

  • Nagelsmann happy with counter-pressing efforts as Bayern thrash Hertha Nagelsmann happy with counter-pressing efforts as Bayern thrash Hertha

    Julian Nagelsmann was happy with Bayern Munich's performance as they swept aside Hertha Berlin 4-1 in the German capital on Sunday, particularly with the quality of their counter-pressing.

    Goals from Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry restored Bayern's six-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, despite a late reply from Jurgen Ekkelenkamp after a mistake from substitute Dayot Upamecano.

    The reigning champions dominated the game, having 30 shots of which 19 were on target, registering an overall expected goals (xG) tally of 5.00.

    "I'm very pleased with the performance," Nagelsmann said at a post-match news conference. "The first half was a bit stronger than in the return fixture. Our players were extremely sharp in their counter-pressing. We had many chances from our possession.

    "In the second half, Hertha were a bit better. Overall, it's a deserved win and a very good game from us."

     

    Muller was also impressed by the team's efforts, especially in creating the number of chances they did.

    "We played well. We had a lot of attacking players on the pitch," the 32-year-old said after scoring his sixth league goal of the campaign.

    "We were looking forward to the game because we knew what we were going to do today. On the other hand, of course, you never know how an attacking wing pairing of Coman and Gnabry will work."

    Muller added, quoted on Bayern's official website: "The first half was maybe even a bit better than the second because we had more control.

    "Our counter-pressing was a bit better, we allowed practically nothing. We had Berlin pinned down right from the start and let nothing go to waste, and had chance after chance. A very good afternoon of football."

  • Juve star Chiesa out for seven months following knee surgery Juve star Chiesa out for seven months following knee surgery

    Juventus winger Federico Chiesa will not play again this season after undergoing knee surgery on Sunday.

    The Serie A giants said Chiesa is likely to be sidelined for around seven months, meaning he could return in the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign.

    That would give Chiesa a chance to prove his fitness to Italy boss Roberto Mancini ahead of the World Cup starting in November, providing the Azzurri qualify. It definitively means Chiesa can be ruled out of Italy's plans for the World Cup play-offs.

    The European champions face North Macedonia in the play-off semi-finals in March and will then meet either Turkey or Portugal for a place in Qatar.

    Chiesa was hurt in the thrilling 4-3 Serie A victory over Jose Mourinho's Roma two weeks ago, sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury. He was substituted in the first half of that game.

    Juventus said Chiesa's operation had gone to plan, indicating they had been expecting this outcome.

    The club said in a statement on Sunday: "This afternoon, Federico Chiesa underwent surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

    "The operation, performed at the Hochrum clinic in Innsbruck by Professor Christian Fink and in the presence of Juventus' Dr Stefanini, proved to be a perfect success. The expected recovery time is approximately seven months."

    His confirmed absence is a huge blow to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose side were in Serie A action against Milan on Sunday evening.

    Juve have recently appeared to have turned a corner after a rocky start to the season, but they still face a battle to secure a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League.

    Their Champions League last-16 tie with Villarreal begins in February, and Chiesa will only be a spectator.

    After making an impressive impact in Euro 2020, Chiesa scored four goals and provided two assists in 18 appearances for Juve in all competitions this season.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.