Karim Benzema is relieved to have scored his first goals at this European Championship on behalf of France. The forward scored twice in the cracker against Portugal (2-2) to help the French advance to the round of 16 as group winners.
Benzema remained dry in the first two games against Germany (1-0 win) and Hungary (1-1) and that caused criticism in France. Head coach Didier Deschamps and his team-mates took it up for him before the game with Portugal and he did not betray that confidence.
“I am very happy and proud. I think everyone would have waited for this. There was a little pressure on me from all over the country. But I’m a pro. I need that pressure. It’s normal,” said Benzema, who made it 1-1 (penalty) and 2-1 at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest.
“I never doubted myself, but I knew there were expectations of me from the country. I’ve been able to score now and I’m going to enjoy it with everyone. Hopefully I can hold this line and be important for the team again in the next round.”
For Benzema, it was his first goals for France in five years and 258 days, when he scored twice in the friendly against Armenia. After that, he was not selected for a long time due to possible involvement in an extortion case of Mathieu Valbuena.
It was a crazy football night’ (Benzema)
Deschamps enjoyed the nerve-wracking denouement in Pool F. France were already certain of the round of 16, but with Hungary surprisingly ahead against Germany for a long time, Portugal and Germany had to fear elimination, but it didn’t come to that in the end.
“We saw on the scoreboard that Hungary twice got ahead against Germany and that made things very complicated. It was an amazing football night that went in all directions,” Deschamps said.
“Football is pure magic in that respect, from one situation to another emotions can change so quickly. The morale of the team can also change. Tonight was pleasant, although not everything was perfect. It was a game at the highest level.”
France take on Switzerland in the round of 16 at 9pm in Bucharest on Monday, finishing third in Pool A behind Italy and Wales and ahead of Turkey. The winner will face Croatia or Spain in the quarter-finals, which will face each other in Copenhagen on Monday at 6pm.
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