Benzema back from the brink!

When Karim Benzema held up the Ballon d’Or award last month, the crowd in the Parisian theatre rose to applaud him. Now he hopes to lift France fans out of their seats at the FIFA World Cup.

That crowded theatre seemed a fitting location for Benzema’s crowning moment of personal glory, considering he was once the symbol of national disapproval—long rejected and maligned by the French public following a sex tape scandal. It led to a long exclusion from the national team until his recall last year. 

Calm and poised, intellectual-looking with thin-rimmed glasses, Benzema finally being celebrated as a national icon—only the fifth Frenchman to win the award as the best player in Europe and the first since Zinedine Zidane, his idol, in 1998.

“There was a period when I wasn’t in the national team, but I never gave up. Zidane kept telling me to enjoy my football, that one day I could win this trophy. It made me stronger mentally,” Benzema, 34, had said while collecting the Ballon d’Or.

Since his recall to the national team, Benzema has scored 10 goals in 16 games—including four at last year’s European Championship—and enters the World Cup as arguably the most complete forward along with Lionel Messi.

Also read: Ballon d`Or 2022: Karim Benzema, Alexia Putellas clinch top honours

France coach Didier Deschamps finally recalled Benzema to the national team in 2021 after six years out for his alleged part in the sex tape scandal. In the six years, Benzema, who is of Algerian descent, faced a nationwide deluge of vitriol and scathing criticism. France reached the Euro 2016 final and won the 2018 World Cup without him.

At Real Madrid, Benzema came into his own after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018. His tally of 329 goals is second in the club’s all-time high list. In  four consecutive seasons he has 131 goals, including a career-high  44 last season. 

Now he spearheads France’s attack alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann (his World Cup teammate from 2014). Benzema was France’s top scorer at that tournament in Brazil. Eight years later, he has another shot at glory on the biggest stage. This time, the nation is right behind him.

Benzema’s goal tally for France in 97 games

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