Benzema glad to see Mbappe bury his latest penalty: What happened at Euro 2020 has been erased

By Sports Desk October 08, 2021

Karim Benzema has revealed he asked Kylian Mbappe to take France's penalty against Belgium in Thursday's Nations League semi-final so his team-mate could banish the memories of missing from the spot at Euro 2020.

Mbappe missed the crucial kick in France's shoot-out defeat to Switzerland in June's Euro 2020 last-16 tie as Les Blues suffered a shock early exit from a tournament they were deemed favourites to win.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward made no mistake from 12 yards against Belgium, though, thumping the ball into the top-right corner to level things up before Theo Hernandez's late winner set up a showdown with Spain in Sunday's final.

Benzema started France's comeback from two goals down and the Real Madrid striker was more than happy to let Mbappe take the penalty at the Allianz Stadium.

"We are both players who take penalties," he told M6. "I wanted him to take this one so I gave him the ball. I really wanted him to score. 

"After what happened at the Euros, it's been erased. On the pitch I try to make my team-mates better every time I play."

Benzema was named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award on Friday after an impressive year that saw him impress for Madrid and make a surprise international comeback with France.

And fellow France forward Antoine Griezmann hailed his team-mate for the form he has shown for club and country.

"He gets the ball and puts it in the net," Griezmann told M6. "I tell him, 'when you play like that, you're just too strong for others'.

"It's awesome to watch him play, to see Karim at this level. I hope he can continue this way for Sunday's final."

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    Wojciech Szczesny made a bet with Lionel Messi during Poland's World Cup clash against Argentina that the referee would not award a penalty, the goalkeeper has revealed.

    The Juventus stopper denied Messi from the spot in the first half of Poland's 2-0 defeat in Group C following a controversial decision, where Danny Makkelie pointed to the spot after watching the incident following VAR advice.

    Szczesny was among those convinced that it should not have been a penalty, even going as far as to make a bet with Messi during the delay of the game – though he has no intention of paying up.

    "We spoke before the penalty. I told him I can bet him €100 that he [the referee] wasn't going to give it. So, I've lost a bet against Messi," he said after the match.

    "I don't know if that's allowed at the World Cup and I'm probably going to get banned for it but I don't care right now. And I'm not going to pay him either! He doesn't care about €100, come on."

    Szczesny's denial of Messi from the spot saw the Polish stopper become only the third goalkeeper to save two penalties at a single World Cup tournament, excluding shoot-outs, having kept out Saudi Arabia's Salem Al Dawsari in the previous round of fixtures.

    His celebrations were muted, however, due to the tight contest in Group C to advance to the knockout stage – with Poland only advancing ahead of Mexico on goal difference.

    "Yeah it was nice, I didn't know at the time it was going to help us get through so I tried not to celebrate," he added.

    "But I've had some bad luck at the big tournaments so far, the World Cup four years ago was awful for me and I owed this much to the team and in the last two games I managed to help them a little bit."

    Poland will face defending champions France at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday in the nation's first appearance in the knockout stage since 1986.

  • Klose salutes 'exemplary' Germany striker Fullkrug - 'Football needs such guys' Klose salutes 'exemplary' Germany striker Fullkrug - 'Football needs such guys'

    Miroslav Klose saluted "exemplary" Niclas Fullkrug after the Germany striker's goalscoring World Cup debut against Spain.

    The Werder Bremen forward was named in Hansi Flick's squad for the finals after netting 10 times in 14 Bundesliga appearances this season, a tally only bettered by Christophe Nkunku in the German top flight (12).

    Fullkrug scored the winner against Oman on his debut earlier this month, before snatching the equaliser following a lively cameo appearance as a substitute in Die Nationalmannschaft's 1-1 draw with Spain on Sunday.

    The 29-year-old, who became the first substitute to score for Germany at the World Cup since Mario Gotze's winner against Argentina in the 2014 final, has caught the eye of former striker Klose.

    The World Cup's all-time leading scorer does not know if Fullkrug will start the four-time champions' crucial Group E clash with Costa Rica on Thursday, which they must win to stand any chance of qualifying for the last 16.

    But Klose believes he would boost their attacking threat, telling Bild: "He has a certain presence in the penalty box and a good nose for situations.

    "He brings a good package for a striker - good finishing inside the box, he's two-footed and strong with headers.

    "Costa Rica will certainly sit deep, but I don't know Hansi's game plan. For me, it's important that when Niclas gets his minutes, he should use the opportunity.

    "As soon as he's on the pitch, the opponent's focus will shift away from Jamal [Musiala], Thomas [Muller] or Leroy [Sane], because there will be someone in the penalty box to watch out for. That will automatically free up space for the others.

    "I heard his interviews after the Spain game and immediately noticed that he doesn't get carried away. He knows that more still has to come.

    "When I see how he conducts himself and from what I heard from the team, I can only say: that's exemplary. Football needs such guys."

    Fullkrug revealed he used to look up to Klose, who also enjoyed a clinical spell with Bremen during his playing career, scoring 63 goals in 132 appearances between 2004 and 2007. 

    "That's really nice to hear, because it means I did something right as a footballer," the 44-year-old added. "Niclas' statement is a big compliment for me. I'm even happier that a striker from my ex-club has the chance to show what he can do."

  • 'Messi didn't score, did he?' – Michniewicz defends Lewandowski as Poland survive tense Group C finale 'Messi didn't score, did he?' – Michniewicz defends Lewandowski as Poland survive tense Group C finale

    Czeslaw Michniewicz defended Robert Lewandowski's display after Poland inched into the World Cup's last 16 despite losing to Argentina in Wednesday's dramatic Group C finale.

    Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina recovered from Lionel Messi's first-half penalty miss to top Group C, leaving Poland glancing nervously at Mexico's fixture against Saudi Arabia.

    Poland were set to beat Mexico to second place due to their disciplinary record for much of the second half, but Saudi Arabia's late consolation in a 2-1 defeat ensured El Tri exited the tournament on goal difference.

    Despite Poland advancing from their World Cup group for the first time since 1986, Lewandowski was criticised after failing to record a single shot in the match, but Michniewicz believes he was hamstrung by a lack of service.

    "He was very much involved and committed, I'm not attacking anyone from our team, but we didn't help him," Michniewicz said.

    "If our team would have had the higher percentage of possession, if Messi played with us and Robert with them, I'm convinced Robert scores five.

    "Robert needs conditions, he needs to be assisted, and he was acting in our half. There were so many players covering him. 

    "He's a great player and there were several one on ones. Messi didn't score, did he? That's all. 

    "I think we're expecting Robert to score. He wanted to but we didn't have the opportunity for that."

    Before Salem Al Dawsari reduced the arrears for Saudi Arabia, Poland held a narrow disciplinary advantage over Mexico – picking up five yellow cards across their group games to El Tri's seven.

    Asked whether he told his team to concentrate on avoiding bookings late on, Michniewicz added: "I said to avoid stupid cards. 

    "We were also discussing it on the bench, we were afraid one of the players would get a card and then we wouldn't go through. 

    "Cards from the bench weren't going to count, we were told, but we were doing everything possible to avoid provocation."

    While Poland failed to record a shot on target during a meek performance, Michniewicz was visibly irked by criticism of his side, choosing to relish their qualification after failed group-stage campaigns in 2002, 2006 and 2018.

    "We got promoted after so many years, we played this difficult group. Let's enjoy. We still have until Sunday to criticise," he said. "Were you watching the match? What can I say? We've lost, it wasn't nice football, but it's bittersweet."

    Eager to call time on his media duties, Michniewicz added: "It's really late, the prime minister is calling and I can't answer!"

    Poland will now face world champions France for a quarter-final spot at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday, while Argentina will take on Australia on Saturday.

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