Benzema misses penalty in France return following six-year absence

Karim Benzema France 2021Getty Images

Karim Benzema made his first France appearance in nearly six years when he started Wednesday's friendly against Wales, but his return included a saved penalty in the first half.

The Real Madrid star was included in France's Euro 2020 squad last month , ending an exile that stemmed from his role in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal.

Benzema started against Wales alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann on Wednesday - both of who scored, as did sub Ousmane Dembele - forming a strong attacking trio for Didier Deschamps' side as France ran out 3-0 winners.

How did Benzema's return go?

Midway through the first half, France were awarded a penalty when Wales defender Neco Williams was penalised for a handball in the box and shown a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity.

Benzema stepped up and went low to his left, but goalkeeper Danny Ward produced a fine diving save to deny the forward. The striker has now missed each of his last three penalties for France.

Benzema's exile ends

The 33-year-old striker amassed 81 caps and scored 27 goals for Les Bleus leading up to his two-goal display against Armenia in October 2015.

That match would be Benzema's last before his international exile began, and it appeared for a long time to have been his final France appearance - but after a fantastic run of form for Madrid, Deschamps decided to give Benzema another chance with France ahead of their Euro 2020 campaign. 

What was said?

Speaking about his decision to reinstate Benzema, Deschamps said "things have changed" but didn't give away much else.

"Things have changed. Me, and certainly Karim's side too, of course," the France boss told Telefoot. "I'm not going to tell you when, how, if it was possible before. The conditions were not met, they are today. If I made this decision, you can imagine that it was fine."

After Wednesday's match, Deschamps told TF1 of Benzema's penalty miss: "Karim was unfortunate, but he was very present. A goal would have pleased him, and me too, but if he saves them for later...

"It was an important moment for him [to play for France again]. He is part of a collective in the way he plays." 

Asked himself what he thought of his return to international football, Benzema said: "Good, very good. I had very good feelings, with a good week of work. A lot of pride and joy and desire to play and show what I did on the field.

"A match is like that, the main thing is to create the opportunities, win and do better next time."

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