Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo could be the inspiration his club team-mate Karim Benzema needs to help France to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
The two Real Madrid team-mates failed to score in their initial two group games at the European Championships, prompting criticism Ronaldo and Benzema were failing to produce their best when their respective countries needed them.
Ronaldo and Benzema combined for 61 goals for Real Madrid last season and after Ronaldo scored both goals in Portugal’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Sunday, France coach Laurent Blanc will hope Benzema can replicate that kind of performance against Sweden on Tuesday.
Blanc has backed Benzema to find his goal-scoring touch against the Swedes and argued the 24-year-old has been in good form so far at the continental championships.
“I’m not focusing on whether Karim scores or not,” Blanc said in the lead-up to Tuesday’s game in Kiev.
“He’s an important player for us, and showed he had a good understanding with the wide players against Ukraine.”
Benzema set up Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye to score in France’s 2-0 win over Ukraine on Friday.
Midfielder Yann M’Vila has claimed those assists demonstrate the important role Benzema plays in the French national team.
“For me, Benzema is among the best strikers in the world,” M’Vila said.
“I’m not worried about Karim because when he doesn’t score he creates chances for others.”
A win for France against Sweden will see Blanc’s team finish top of Group D and qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.
France finished bottom of their groups at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup with just one draw at each tournament.
Sweden head coach Erik Hamren is expected to bring in some fresh faces against France after consecutive defeats in their first two matches at Euro 2012.
Hamren’s squad is one of the oldest at the tournament and with World Cup qualifying coming up in September, he needs to test some of his younger players in top level competition.
While Sweden cannot advance to the knockout stages, Hamren is still confident his team are on the way up.
“I think there’s hope for Swedish football,” Hamren said.
“Even though it might take a while before we play the way I want us to.”
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