Deschamps delighted with Benzema form

06 March 2014 11:01

France coach Didier Deschamps was full of praise for Karim Benzema after the Real Madrid striker played a starring role in Wednesday's 2-0 friendly win against the Netherlands.

Benzema gave Les Bleus the lead at the Stade de France with a thumping first-half volley and then played a part in the making of the second goal, which was finished in outrageous fashion by Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

For much of the last two years, the 26-year-old struggled to reproduce his club form on the international stage and endured a goal drought of more than 1,200 minutes while playing for France.

But he got back among the goals in a 6-0 friendly win against Australia last October and now appears to have firmly established himself ahead of Arsenal's Olivier Giroud in the pecking order for a starting berth up front going into this year's World Cup.

"He carried on the great form he has been showing with Real Madrid. When he plays at that level it is great for us," said Deschamps after Wednesday's game.

"Let's hope he can keep it up. You can see it on his face. He is beaming and that is because he is feeling confident.

"I have two centre-forwards with different qualities," the coach added.

"Karim has played most games and Olivier has also shown his qualities. Karim's form is such that it's great for us but I'm not ruling out Olivier, on the contrary."

France picked up where they left off in beating Ukraine 3-0 in a play-off in November to qualify for the finals in Brazil and they are looking in increasingly good shape ahead of the finals, where they will come up against Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E.

Matuidi was also outstanding in Wednesday's game while there was a promising performance from Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala on what was just his second international appearance.

Things were a little bit more difficult for Antoine Griezmann, although Deschamps was positive about the 22-year-old Real Sociedad winger's debut showing.

"Playing your first game for your country is never easy. In an ideal world he wouldn't have started but he did some good things. He was heavily involved in the attacking animation, changing positions with (Mathieu) Valbuena and Benzema," said the coach.

"This wasn't the same context (as the Ukraine game) but there was still the desire to do well.

"We were timid in the first quarter of an hour but we started to play at pace and with aggression which allowed us to take the advantage."

- Oranje unbeaten run ended -

For the Netherlands, who had won nine and drawn one of 10 games in qualifying for the World Cup, this was a first defeat since August 2012.

Louis van Gaal's side were particularly poor defensively, while the experienced duo of Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie were both largely muted.

However, the influential Arjen Robben watched on from the bench and Van Gaal will be confident that his side can perform better when it comes to the World Cup, in which the Oranje have been drawn in a testing group alongside Australia, Chile and defending champions Spain.

"At the World Cup we will need to focus for the whole 90 minutes," said the coach, who will leave his post after the tournament in Brazil, with Guus Hiddink set to take his place.

"We can't allow ourselves to lose possession in midfield like we did here. But it was a good test against a great footballing nation.

"I thought we defended well for the first 25 minutes but we lost our way after the first goal, which came against the run of play."

Source: AFP

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 08:44