Benzema exits Brazil with a whimper
Karim Benzema's World Cup campaign could not have started much better. In the opening win over Honduras and the following thumping of Switzerland, the French No. 10 had amassed three goals and three assists and was being talked up as a potential star of the tournament. Fast-forward three games and the Real Madrid man leaves Brazil with his French teammates after the 1-0 defeat to Germany in Rio de Janeiro having failed to add a single goal or assist to his total since.
Benzema was disappointing at the Maracana on Friday, although his struggles were not necessarily solely down to him. France did not turn up for their quarterfinal clash the same way they did for their opening group encounters and towards the end of their round-of-16 clash with Nigeria, and the 26-year-old was one of those made to suffer the most.
Les Bleus' attack never really got going against a balanced but vulnerable German back line.
Benzema had a number of chances, but rarely looked like the same player he was at the start of the tournament. Against Nigeria he looked disinterested, but against Germany he just looked ineffectual. The midfield were not linking up as well with the attack and -- following the introduction of Antoine Griezmann -- Benzema was expected to become the focal point of the attack in Olivier Giroud's absence.
That did not happen, and now the former Olympique Lyonnais man's tournament is over.
Before the World Cup, Benzema needed a big overall performance to possibly save his international career after failing to replicate his club form with his country. He just about managed to provide that in Brazil, and manager Didier Deschamps utilising him for every minute of every game suggests he won't be thrown out for France's next fixture, but there will remain a feeling that this was a missed opportunity for Benzema.
He was in form and enjoying his football after the first two matches before Deschamps decided to change a number of players for the goalless draw with Ecuador. After that, the Real Madrid man's form and confidence have not been the same, and it is difficult not to feel that those changes affected the mercurial talent.
Benzema had the chance to set the world alight after the start he made and did not show the hunger to kick on after his opening couple of performances. That was once again evident against Germany, when he was a spectral presence at times and had to resort to taking chance off of his own teammates' boots.
Against Joachim Low's side, he failed to link up in the same way we have seen him previously combine with Mathieu Valbuena and Griezmann, playing with less authority in the central role than exhibited in the opening game against Honduras. Benzema's best chances often came through balls played over the top that he was able to run on to, exploiting Germany's lack of pace and uncharacteristic problems in dealing with high balls.
It was a chance for Benzema to prove he can go up against the best in the world and still lead France past them and, like in many of the big games, the Real Madrid star still went missing.
There was enough shown by Benzema in Brazil to suggest that he is not yet a lost cause for Deschamps, but the Germany clash was a test of his appetite that he once again failed. Doubts will continue to persist that France cannot rely solely on their No. 10, and the likes of Giroud should get plenty of opportunities ahead of the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.