World Cup 2014 France Squad: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud to Play Together?
LILLE, France—Franck Ribery’s injury means that Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud will likely play together at the World Cup, with coach Didier Deschamps finding a way to accommodate them both by shifting Benzema onto the left flank.
Pairing Benzema and Giroud has failed to work in the past, but that was in a 4-4-2 system with both playing as strikers and getting in each other’s way.
Benzema showed on Sunday that he can be lethal cutting in from the left — Ribery’s usual position. He scored twice and set up three more goals as France completed its warm-up matches with an 8-0 thrashing of Jamaica.
Deschamps is likely to keep them both in the line-up for France’s opening match of the World Cup against Honduras in Group E on Sunday.
“I haven’t played on the left for a long time now, it’s not my preferred position,” Benzema said. “I tried to move around a lot and I dropped deep a bit more. It worked.”
Giroud has demonstrated in recent matches how important he can be to France as its central striker, thanks to his ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal, his neat touch and his ability to win balls in the air — something Benzema doesn’t do.
Giroud scored twice in the 4-0 rout of Norway last week and set up another goal when he held off a defender to nod the ball down to Yohan Cabaye.
“It worked well up front. Olivier was playing more as a target man with Karim moving around him and playing with more freedom,” Cabaye said. “With Olivier and Karim, you just need to give them good service.”
Giroud has impressed enough in the three warm-up matches before the World Cup to persuade Deschamps to stick with him as the lone No. 9, rather than replace him with Benzema and give Ribery’s slot to Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann, who has scored three goals in the past two games as a substitute.
“We combined well, especially in the second half,” Benzema said, praising Giroud’s contribution. “We have to keep it going.”
France is scoring freely and playing with panache. That wasn’t the case between March and September, when the team went five games without a goal, but since ending that rut the team has 31 goals in nine games.
Benzema also looks revitalized after a successful season with Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League and Spanish Cup. He lost his place in the France side last September after a dismal run of 15 games without scoring, but those dark days seem long gone. He has scored six times in the past six games for France.
After being rested for the friendlies against Norway and Paraguay, he looked fresh and sharp against Jamaica, almost completing his first international hat-trick with a fierce shot that hit the post.
“We showed some good things in attack, but once again that’s because we kept things simple and played as a team,” goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said.
Ribery’s absence seemed like a nightmare for France, but it could work in the team’s favor by taking Benzema out of the Bayern Munich star’s shadow and thrusting him into the spotlight as the leader of the attack.
“Losing Ribery’s a blow but we have to stop talking about this and make do without him,” midfielder Blaise Matuidi said.