France vs Germany World Cup 2014: Karim Benzema’s back at the front but falls just short of brilliance

The supply line was established and now Benzema had to deliver

the maracana

France have been waiting for the Karim Benzema who delivers such headturning displays for Real Madrid to turn up for some time. He could not be found here last night.

The 26-year-old had earned high praise from coach Didier Deschamps after a group stage in which he scored three times and was only denied a fourth by both an errant penalty against Switzerland and a fabulous last-minute strike ruled out by an officious referee declaring time was up seconds earlier.

Expectations were high of a player who had been left behind for the 2010 World Cup, especially given the clamour for a tactical switch in France’s front three which placed him at the heart of everything Deschamps was planning.

Against Nigeria at the last-16 stage, Olivier Giroud was deployed as the attacking spearhead with Benzema on the left and Mathieu Valbuena on the right. Giroud was dropped here for Antoine Griezmann, who changed the game in Brasilia, with Benzema reverting to centre-forward.

The supply line was established. Benzema had to deliver. His performances may have been enough to convince Madrid to offer him a lucrative new three-year contract – incidentally landing a further blow to Arsenal, who have courted his services for some time, on a day when Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Giroud were all considered surplus to requirements for a World Cup quarter-final – but in a tournament where so many leading players have thrived, France’s leading man fluffed his lines.


Germany began with a very high defensive line and a compact midfield compressing the space for Valbuena and Griezmann to weave their intricate patterns. However, as Algeria had found in their last-16 clash, there was joy to be had with a more rudimentary approach and Germany’s vulnerability to a simple long ball reared its head again here.

There was a sporadic but very real threat. Benzema had already sidefooted wide when promisingly placed after clever work from Valbuena in the left channel when Germany took the lead.

Mats Hummels headed home Toni Kroos’s 12th-minute free-kick, rising above 21-year-old French centre-back Raphaël Varane, whose promise is undeniable but perhaps inexperience told in that vital moment where concentration and focus are paramount. Four of the last five goals France have conceded came from set-pieces – it is a trend which has threatened to cost Deschamps’ side dear long before now.

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris fielded a question at the pre-match press conference lamenting France’s slow starts to matches in Brazil by declaring that they had not conceded in those lackadaisical beginnings. They did here and the toughest test of the newfound French unity – so refreshingly at odds with the mutinous chaos of four years ago in South Africa – was at hand.

A long ball forward by Mamadou Sakho found Griezmann, who in turn delivered a pass for Valbuena, whose left-foot shot drew a fine save from Manuel Neuer. The rebound fell to Benzema, who could not contort his body to facilitate anything more than a weak attempt at goal which took a deflection and led to a corner which came to nothing.

Benzema headed a good cross from Patrice Evra straight at a defender, hoping in vain for a penalty, before he elegantly controlled Paul Pogba’s pass, cut inside menacingly on to his right foot but then fired a tame effort that Neuer saved.

He seemed burdened by the responsibility, although it was one he did not shirk. Collecting a 76th-minute cross in the box he struck a left-foot shot that was blocked by Hummels.

On the path to tournament finals, Germany are that little more streetwise. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger picked up cynical yellow cards when France threatened to find a glimmer of space.

A fifth consecutive semi-final reveals a know-how that can often only be overcome by the brilliance of the biggest names. Benzema was joined by Loïc Rémy and then Giroud. His last-gasp shot in the 95th minute, having jinked on to his left foot to find space, had Neuer fending off a fierce drive. It might just have been the moment of brilliance that France needed – instead it came to nothing.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map