Touted to lead the next generation of French players following the golden era of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry who won the 1998 World Cup, 2000 Euros and reached the finals of the 2006 World Cup, Benzema has not been able to fill in their boots. Though numbers seem to be backing the 25-year old at club level despite his stop-start performances, his form for country has only showcased sobriety at best. And lately the forward's form is right down there in the abyss following some poor displays in friendlies and World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
All this points to the fact that Benzema's example is a mixture of poor form and lack of consistency for club and country. Even when he has been doing well for Real Madrid, he has been unsuccessful at replicating those kind of contributions for France. To add to this, the other options available to French manager Didier Deschamps seem to be faring relatively well in front of the opposition goal, making Benzema's claim to a starting slot that much more difficult.
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With the two time French Player of the Year's (2011, 2012) barren run in front of goal stretching back to June of last year, others have gradually laid their claim when it comes to attacking duty in a blue shirt.
Keeping just the four World Cup 2014 qualifiers played by France since October in context; striker over-reliance notwithstanding, Les Bleus have become a more comprehensive unit with goals coming from players all over the pitch. While Olivier Giroud has stepped up to the plate and scored crucial goals against Georgia and Spain (the latter of which was a 94th minute equalizer that ended Spain's winning run last October), others from midfield as well as the wings have chipped in and converted; shoving Benzema's goal drought all the more into supporters as well as media spotlight.
The former Olympique Marseille coach Deschamps has some able options available on the bench in the form of Loic Remy and Bafetimbi Gomis. All of them are doing considerably well for their respective clubs with Remy sparking up QPR's survival challenge and Gomis now the new symbol for Benzema's former club Lyon. This potent attacking lineup is a huge challenge for Benzema, who to his own discredit has been scoreless despite having started all of France's four World Cup 2014 qualifiers with the other strikers featuring alongside him in varying formations.
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That brings us to the big tie between France and a shell-shocked Spain side who drew against Finland in last week's round of qualifiers. Only Benzema seems to be making the news for the wrong reasons as the French contingent on the whole will go into Tuesday night's encounter very much in the ascendancy. Sitting on top of Group I, two points ahead of Spain after 4 games played, Les Bleus will enjoy home advantage against the latter; psychologically too holding the reins given they drew the reverse fixture in Spain 1-1 in October.
With so much going his team's way, the decision to be taken over Benzema, will be a tricky one for Deschamps. Does he keep the overall scheme of things in mind and stick to Giroud upfront while he clogs up the midfield against a possession-loving Spain or does he give the under-fire Benzema yet another chance to prove himself, pairing him with Giroud in attack?
Deschamps has stuck to the traditional 4-4-2 on all occasions except for the 3-1 win over Belarus in September when he played a 4-3-3 with Giroud central and Benzema and Ribery on either flanks. One would vote against the latter formation given the wingers' not-so-convincing defensive qualities. All these factors make for a melancholic proposition as far as Benzema is concerned.
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Benzema's plight has reached its horrific level also due to the incessent criticism fired in his direction. While Raymond Domenech has highlighted the striker's lack of scoring by calling him 'useless', supporters have been constantly booing the Frenchman of Algerian descent, making life miserable for the former Lyon star.
He also made the rounds in the media for supposedly showing contempt for the France shirt when he was accused of not singing the country's national anthem before matches.
Support has arrived in the form of Didier Deschamps as the manager has reiterated his faith in the 25-year old. He has praised the striker's ability despite him not finding the back of the net for quite some time now. But what remains to be seen is whether the support continues against the mighty Spanish side.
Spain's left-back Nacho Monreal has thrown in some banter before the game by openly wishing Benzema has another bad day at the office.
All in all, Tuesday's game will be a lot more than a World Cup qualifier. With Benzema's France future hanging by a thread, there seems to be an extra touch of drama in store for us at a fierce Stade De France.
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Will Benzema start against Spain? Will he break his goal drought at the most opportune moment against the La Roja? Let us know by placing a comment or by getting touch with the writer @Harsh8Shah
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