Benzema handed start against Wales on France return alongside Griezmann and Mbappe

By Sports Desk June 02, 2021

Karim Benzema was included in France's starting line-up for Wednesday's friendly with Wales in Nice, ending the Real Madrid striker's near six-year absence from the side.

The 33-year-old's most recent appearance for Les Blues came in October 2015 when scoring a brace against Armenia, taking his tally to 27 goals in 81 international appearances.

He then became embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena - Benzema has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October - and was subsequently overlooked by Didier Deschamps.

That was until last month, however, when Benzema was surprisingly recalled to the squad ahead of the Euro 2020 finals after holding face-to-face talks with Deschamps.

The prolific striker's recall comes on the back of a campaign in which he scored 30 goals for Madrid in all competitions, 23 of those in LaLiga – behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (30).

Some 68 months on from his last outing for France, Benzema was back involved on Wednesday in a star-studded front three alongside Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

The friendly at Allianz Riviera also marked a special occasion for Hugo Lloris, who was captaining his national side from the start of a game for the 100th time.

That is 46 more than any other player in Les Bleus history, with Deschamps next on the list.

Chelsea's Champions League-winning trio Kurt Zouma, N'Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud were not involved, while Thomas Lemar was also absent through injury.

Wales also named a strong line-up for their penultimate match before the European Championship finals get under way, with Gareth Bale captaining his side.

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    Data Slam: Dominant Swiatek

    Swiatek's win here makes her just the fourth player this century to win 30 or more consecutive matches. She also won 85 per cent of points on her first serve (22 of 26) and did not face any break points.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Swiatek – 23/15
    Riske – 6/14

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Swiatek – 1/1
    Riske – 2/2

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Swiatek – 5/9
    Riske – 0/0

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