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Benzema and Ribery, key men behind Frances World Cup bid
French footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema go on trial on Monday charged with having sex with an under-age prostitute.
Here, AFP Sports profiles two of the biggest stars of the France team that will go to the World Cup in Brazil in June:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP)
Now 26, Benzema grew up in Lyon in a family of Algerian origin and made his name as a footballer with his hometown team at a time when they dominated the French game. Benzema made his Ligue 1 debut for Lyon aged 17 in January 2005 but rose to prominence in 2007/08, scoring 20 league goals and helping Lyon win a league and cup double. On returning to the Real Madrid presidency in 2009, Florentino Perez made Benzema one of his biggest signings, splashing out in the region of 35 million euros ($47.4m) to take him to the Spanish capital. Benzema initially took time to settle, struggling with the language and pressure that comes with playing for Madrid, but he grew into a first-pick during Jose Mourinho's reign as coach and scored 21 league goals in Madrid's 2011-12 title-winning campaign. Benzema scored his 100th Madrid goal at the weekend, but he has found the step up to international level harder. He was part of the squad that disappointed at Euro 2008 but then missed the cut for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The target for criticism during an international goal drought of more than a year, he crucially got back on target in last November's World Cup qualifying play-off win against Ukraine and has scored 18 goals in 64 games for his country.
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER)
The 30-year-old Ribery has grown up from humble beginnings in the north-coast town of Boulogne-sur-Mer to become one of the biggest stars in world football and 2013 will surely go down as the year that saw him reach his peak. In a remarkable 12 months, Ribery was arguably the standout player in a Bayern Munich side that won five titles -- the Champions League, Bundesliga, German Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup. Named as player of the year by European football's governing body UEFA, he was initially tipped to win the biggest individual prize of them all, the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the best player in the world. In the end, though, he had to settle for third behind the prolific pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. That may have been a bitter pill to swallow for Ribery, but he can look back with satisfaction with the way his career has gone since his early days in the amateur game. After spells at Metz and Galatasaray in Turkey, it was with Marseille that he first emerged before moving to Germany in 2007. That came 12 months after he helped France reach the World Cup final. He has since gone on to win 80 caps, scoring 16 goals for Les Bleus.
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