Benzema looking to find top form at Euro 2012

Karim Benzema hopes to find his best form again and France coach

Laurent Blanc has predicted his star striker will score against

Sweden.

France is on the verge of qualifying for a European Championship

quarterfinal, but Benzema has failed to shine.

Although he played his part in the 2-0 win against Ukraine,

setting up Yohan Cabaye’s goal with an exquisite turn and pass,

more was expected of the Real Madrid striker heading into the

tournament after he scored 21 league goals to help the club team to

the Spanish title.

France can finish top of Group D if it beats Sweden in Kiev on

Tuesday, and Blanc is tipping Benzema to play a starring role.

”He can score at any time. Maybe if we hadn’t taken him off (in

the second half against Ukraine) he would have scored, and he will

most probably score in the next game,” France coach Laurent Blanc

said. ”The most important thing is that we’re creating chances, no

matter who scores.”

Blanc has a point, because France won the 1998 World Cup without

a goal from its center forward, Stephane Guivarc’h, and with

players chipping in from midfield and defense.

France’s other goal against Ukraine on Friday was scored by

winger Jeremy Menez, with Benzema also involved in the build

up.

But the 24-year-old Benzema’s total of 15 goals in 47

international appearances is lower than it should be, given his

ability.

He has three goals in the past 14 games for France and never

scored at a tournament, after being left out of the 2010 World Cup

and playing twice at Euro 2008.

”I’m not focusing on whether Karim scores or not,” Blanc said.

”He’s an important player for us, and showed he had a good

understanding with the wide players against Ukraine.”

Blanc made Benzema his No. 1 striker as soon as he took charge

nearly two years ago, and has stood by him ever since. Benzema

repaid that faith with crucial goals in Euro 2012 qualifying, and

further strikes in prestigious wins against England and Brazil.

”For me, Benzema is among the best strikers in the world, he’s

up there with (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic,” France midfielder Yann M’Vila

said. ”I’m not worried about Karim, because when he doesn’t score

he creates chances for others.”

But Blanc is facing calls from some sections of the French media

to try playing Benzema alongside Olivier Giroud, the French

league’s top scorer with 21 goals this season for champion

Montpellier.

Giroud is a tall target man who holds the ball up more than

Benzema, who tends to drift out wide to find space when tightly

marked – like he did in the 1-1 draw against England in their

opening Group D match.

”People say Karim peels off too much, but he often does that

for Real Madrid,” Blanc said.

However, at Real Madrid, Benzema is also there as a provider for

top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, which is less the case with France

since he is supposed to be the team’s main source of goals.

Blanc has so far ignored the calls to pair Benzema and Giroud

together, pointing to how other teams also sacrifice one of their

forwards for the sake of the team’s balance.

”I’m not the only one,” Blanc said. ”Germany has the same

problem as us. They have (Miroslav) Klose and (Mario) Gomez, but

only one of them plays. It’s the same for the Netherlands with

(Klaas-Jan) Huntelaar and (Robin) van Persie.”

Benzema has yet to appear before the media since the tournament

started.

Before the opener against England, he said: ”I don’t know if

I’m in the form of my life. I’m only 24, I hope there will be other

times. But I do feel really good. I’ve gained belief in myself,

both with Real Madrid and with France.”

Now he has to prove it at Euro 2012.