Les Bleus

Benzema: 'A nice goal, but I would have preferred to win'

Publish on 04/06/2022 at 10:00

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France striker and Ballon d'Or favourite Karim Benzema scored a stunning slaloming opener against Denmark in the Nations League on Friday, but a double from former Bordeaux striker Andreas Cornelius clinched a shock 2-1 win for the Scandinavians.

After winning the inaugural Nations League a year ago, France began their defence against Denmark at the Stade de France on Friday night, and everything looked to be on track for further success as Benzema capped the home side's dominance with an absolute peach of a goal.

Stunning

Working a one-two with substitute Christopher Nkunku on the right-hand side of the box, the man whose clutch goals helped Real Madrid to a fairy-tale 14th Champions League took a series of sublime touches to work an opportunity before slotting comfortably home for his 50th of the season for club and country.

"My goal? It was a nice goal, that's true, but I would have preferred to win," said the man who many believe will claims first Ballon d'Or this year, and who has now scored in five France matches on the bounce. "It's always better."

Turnaround

But it wasn't to be, as Cornelius - who had a short stint with Bordeaux in 2018-19 - came on for OGC Nice striker Kasper Dolberg and turned the game on its head, single-handedly serving France a first defeat in 20 outings.

First by cancelling out Benzema's beautiful strike with a deft side-footed volley after he had been played in behind France's defence, and then with a triumphant powerful near-post stab as he fended off the attentions of OM's William Saliba.

Circumspect

"That's football, you can't win every time even though that's always what you're trying to do," said a circumspect Benzema. "We came up against a very good team and it didn't go our way. Now we have to rest and focus on Croatia."

Indeed, after Cornelius' exploits, France couldn't look to goal machine Kylian Mbappé, who had been subbed off at half-time as a precaution after some trouble with one of his knees. Meanwhile stopper Raphaël Varane picked up a thigh complaint and has been ruled out of France's next three Nations League clashes.

Moving on

Les Bleus now turn their attention to their appointment with their 2018 World Cup final opponents Croatia, whom they face in Split on Monday 6 June. Will the Denmark defeat prove a stumbling block or a call to arms for Benzema and his squadmates? The Madrid man feels that if his side can master the mental aspect, they can supersede any physical difficulties.

"All the players are coming off a great season, everyone played a lot," explained the striker. "But it's more a question of mental work and taking good care of your body. I think that fatigue is mental, because you can continue to run, even when you are less fresh. It's all in your head."

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