After leading Les Bleus to a Nations League victory, Karim Benzema was lauded as “crucial” by France head coach Didier Deschamps.
Benzema struck a spectacular equalizer as France rallied from behind to defeat Spain 2-1 in the final in Milan on Sunday.
After Mikel Oyarzabal broke the stalemate, Benzema scored in spectacular manner moments later to restore parity before Kylian Mbappe won the game 10 minutes from time.
Benzema finished the Nations League Finals as the joint top scorer with Mbappe and Spain’s Ferran Torres, capping up a very successful season for the Real Madrid talisman, who had spent more than five years in international exile before returning ahead of Euro 2020.
“Karim is a key player, and he has demonstrated that he has the very apparent potential over the course of these two matches,” Deschamps told reporters.
“It’s plain to see; he’s really stepped up from what he’s shown at club level with Real Madrid; he’s got that desperate drive to win.” He’s here to accomplish just that, and he’s communicated well with his colleagues; I’m thrilled for everyone, but especially for him.
“He needs it; he’s not going to play another four or five international competitions, at least not that I’m aware of.” It’s not the most important prize, but he accomplished everything and was crucial to us coming here and winning the Nations League.
“Of course, it’s significant to have come from behind and equalized. I am delighted for Karim, which is why he is here. He scores many goals for his club, and he scores many goals for France, and aside the goals, he has that fantastic drive to win, and you can see it come out.
“I am pleased for the future, of course, because, aside from the skill that he or other players may have, there is also this mental power, this competitive edge, which is very necessary at the top level.”
France is currently undefeated in 25 competitive matches under Deschamps, having only done so once before, from 1994 and 1999, owing to the heroics of Benzema and Mbappe at San Siro.
Mbappe had four goal involvements in the Nations League Finals, more than any other player.
“There are no regrets in football, that is part of the past, some people could agree or disagree, but there was a 10-minute window when we had a bit of a black-out [against Switzerland],” said Deschamps, whose France was upset by Switzerland in the last 16 of Euro 2020.
“And the circumstances went against us here, we were two goals down [in the semi-final against Belgium], that can happen, but it was all about what we had done well before.” But, of course, it was a bit of a surprise, and we did have plans to go further. But this isn’t a matter of tossing everything out the window and tossing the baby out with the bathwater; just the contrary.
“Even if it’s not the same people.” We have some young players with little caps this evening, such as Theo Hernandez and Aurelien Tchouameni. We just threw them in. And the team’s level did not suffer; there will be a lot of enthusiasm on this side, competition for places, and for those who are in form, as you know, the best possible remedy is to win trophies, and there was something up for grabs tonight. I am very happy for the entire squad that was here during the two games that we won here.”