France’s Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema on Sunday declared himself fit and up for the challenge of reviving his country’s battered footballing fortunes in Tuesday’s second Euro 2012 qualifier against Bosnia.
The 22-year-old – scorer of eight goals in his 28 apperances for France – has fortunately for coach Laurent Blanc recovered from an ankle injury which ruled him out of the opening 1-0 home defeat by Belarus on Friday.
Benzema is certain to lead the line on Tuesday in what should prove to be a real test against a Bosnian side that just failed to reach the World Cup finals.
But he said on Sunday he was more than ready to take up the challenge which has been made tougher as Blanco lost three of his first choice forwards in Loic Remy, Louis Saha and Guillaume Hoarau all to injury since the Belarus defeat.
“I am ready to make a lot of sacrifices to establish myself at Real,” Benzema told TV programme Telefoot referring to his difficult maiden season last term after a 35million euros transfer from Lyon.
“I am ready to fight for my place at both Real and the French team. I have had a year of adapting which did not go really well at Real, but this year I have come with new ambitions, that of playing regularly.
“I am fit, I have returned to training normally, and I am fine physically.”
Blanc appearing on the same programme praised Benzema, whose attitude has not always charmed his team-mates as was clear when he and Sami Nasri were highlighted as showing a lack of respect for their elders at the Euro 2008 finals.
“In terms of his morale, I would say that he is ready in his head, and ready to make certain sacrifices notably on the level of diet.
“I am happy to hear him say that, for to succeed at a big club like Real, it is necessary to have both footballing and psychological qualities.”
Blanc’s fellow World Cup and Euro 2000 winner Fabien Barthez – whose bald pate Blanc customarily kissed prior to big matches for luck – said that Benzema was fortunate to have two strong characters as his coaches at club and international level.
“Karim has this speed of shot, this acceleration, that he lines up his shots really quickly, but I repeat, that is not sufficient, in clubs like that (Real Madrid), there are only great players, and Karim is not yet one,” said Barthez, who is acting as a consultant for the French goalkeepers.
“He has the good fortune to have Laurent (as national coach) and Jose Mourinho (coach of Real), who he can listen to, and who he can look at and observe what is going on around him, and his mark of greatness will come, there is no reason why not, he has all the qualities that is required.”
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