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The France striker lost ground on his Golden Boot rivals after a frustrating night against Ecuador, with opposition goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez particularly impressive

By Alex Young

Karim Benzema has been one of the stars of the World Cup so far with his three goals and two assists aiding France's impressive start in Brazil.

In truth, the striker's return could have been even better after missing a penalty and seeing an injury-time strike cancelled out by the final whistle against Switzerland.

So, with les Bleus marching into the last-16 stage, Goal runs the rule over their star man...

PERFORMANCE AGAINST ECUADOR

After a stunning start to the campaign, Benzema struggled for the majority on Wednesday night with the Ecuador defence handling him and Paul Pogba efficiently.

The striker had to wait nearly half an hour for his first sight of goal as Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez flapped at Bacary Sagna's delivery, but Benzema allowed the ball to skim off the top of his head.

A frustrating rest of the first half followed as the 26-year-old was thwarted by Frickson Erazo & Co. despite clever movement to allow the likes of Pogba and Antoine Griezmann space inside the final third.

Time and time again Benzema, and others, were denied by a fine performance from Dominguez - though question marks over the striker's finishing were raised with most attempts directed straight at the goalkeeper.

Come full-time, France's first-place finish in Group E was confirmed but concerns over the focus of their attack may well have surfaced, despite his fine form in the opening two games. But, admittedly, a below-par display after two headline-making performance is no surprise for fans of Real Madrid or les Bleus.

HE'D BE PERFECT FOR...

Any side who wants a world-class striker. The most obvious choice is Arsenal, who are actively looking for attacking reinforcements after relying heavily on Olivier Giroud last season.

Arsene Wenger is currently casting an eye over Mario Balotelli - who disappointed in Italy's final two group games - but is hesitant over AC Milan's increased £35 million asking price.

And therein lies the problem: Arsenal are one of the few teams in the world who could afford to sign Benzema but Wenger is unlikely to meet what is expected to be a huge asking price from Real Madrid.

Benzema's improvements over recent years cannot be ignored - he has scored 49 goals in 99 Liga appearances over the last three seasons - but is still guilty of going missing in games with inconsistent performances.

With Diego Costa set to join Chelsea and Manchester United eyeing other targets, the Gunners will have little competition from Premier League sides as they look to end a year-long search for a striker after failed bids for both Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed Alvaro Morata will leave Santiago Bernabeu this summer in search for more regular first-team football, which reduces the pressure on Benzema for a starting berth and increases the club's dependency on him.

In truth, an exit for the France striker will only come if he is forced out of the club, as he recently insisted he has no intention to leave the Champions League holders.

"I feel at home in Madrid. I am really at ease," he told L'Equipe.

"Playing at Real Madrid is a joy and fills me with pride because it is the greatest club in the world and also because I have come through some difficult moments in my five years here."

As the saying goes 'never say never' but, for the time being at least, it is unlikely to see Benzema playing on these shores in the near future.



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