France earned a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria in their final warm-up game ahead of Euro 2020 but face a nervous wait on Karim Benzema after his withdrawal through injury.
Antoine Griezmann’s deflected overhead kick gave the world champions the lead just before the half-hour mark and substitute Olivier Giroud wrapped things up with two close-range finishes late on.
But it is the first-half loss of Benzema to what appeared to be a thigh problem that will dominate manager Didier Deschamps’ thoughts in the aftermath.
Recently recalled after a six-year exile from the national team, the Real Madrid forward looked lively prior to his early departure, setting up Kylian Mbappe for a powerful shot that was well saved by Daniel Naumov.
Unfortunately for the Bulgaria goalkeeper, there was nothing he could do about an acrobatic effort from Griezmann shortly after, which took a nick off Ivaylo Chochev before hitting the back of the net.
— French Team (@FrenchTeam) June 8, 2021
Only more Naumov brilliance stopped Griezmann from doubling his tally before the break after a flowing team move, and he was also sharp in keeping out an Mbappe effort after the restart.
But the latter should have done better than to drag a shot wide when played in one-v-one by Paul Pogba soon after.
Given the low-stakes nature of the fixture, it was no surprise France’s dominance led to some understandable complacency, and they were handed a huge let-off when Birsent Karagaren shot wide after finding space in the area.
However, the win was effectively secured eight minutes from time when Giroud produced a trademark front-post finish from a delicious Benjamin Pavard cross.
And the Chelsea forward was at it again in the final minute of normal time, tapping in an unmissable low ball across the box from fellow substitute Wissam Ben Yedder.
What does it mean? Benzema injury takes shine off
After taking a stunning gamble in recalling Benzema to his squad, Deschamps will now be praying that injury does not deny him the chance to make a big contribution at the Euros.
The 33-year-old did not appear overly concerned by what looked on first viewing to be a dead leg but that won’t stop his manager worrying ahead of a likely scan on the issue.
He may have endured a forgettable season at club level with Barcelona, but Griezmann is primed to shine again for France at a major tournament.
As well as scoring the opener in impressive fashion here, the 30-year-old took three shots, laid on one key pass, and provided six crosses in a showing full of promise.
Mbappe blank no concern
A striker of Mbappe’s class is never pleased to draw a blank, particularly in a game featuring so many France chances.
But his six shots, four of which found the target, and five key passes suggest he is in line for a big say in the Euros.
France kick off their European Championship campaign with a mouthwatering group-stage clash with Germany in Munich in seven days’ time. Having failed to qualify for the competition, Bulgaria must wait for the resumption of World Cup qualifying for their next outing.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!