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Mar 20, 2013

France's Benzema unhappy with critics

Karim Benzema has expressed his annoyance at continued criticism of his performances for France as the Real Madrid striker struggles for goals at international level.

• Johnson: All hail Blaise
• Rigg: Varane continuing rapid ascent
• Benzema happy at Madrid

Benzema, 25, has not scored for his country since June last year - a barren run of 839 minutes - but he teed up both Les Bleus' goals in the 2-0 group-stage win over co-hosts Ukraine at last summer's European Championship, and also provided assists in September's World Cup qualifying wins against Finland and Belarus.

The former Lyon forward also saw a magnificent free-kick strike the bar before the ball was headed in by Mathieu Valbuena to give France the lead in February's 2-1 friendly defeat to Germany, and he told RMC radio he felt the quality of his performances should not be judged on goals alone.

"I'm contributing," he said. "Perhaps the true value of that is not seen, but that's the way it is. People expect a lot of me, I'm aware of that. On the pitch, I try, but I can't do everything by myself! I can't take the ball and dribble past eight players.

"People talk about my goals as it's been a while since I scored for Les Bleus. I give assists, but I get the impression it's all for nothing."

He added that a collective effort was required to boost the national team's output when they face Georgia and Spain in 2014 World Cup qualifying in the coming week.

"We have a good team, good players, but we don't score enough," he said. "We're winning, which is good, but it would be better to score more goals. We need to perhaps take a few more risks. We're solid defensively - we all defend together, and don't allow teams to break us down. It's up to us to build understanding up front to score more goals."

National team boss Didier Deschamps, 44, has seen his side strike five times in their three Group I qualifiers to date, and appears to be undecided on how best to use Benzema.

The striker has featured as a lone figure up front, a support striker and out wide at various times under the former France captain, while a partnership with Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud has only been tentatively tested.

Benzema insisted his position on the pitch "is not the problem", though he did take issue with those who equate his lack of goals for the national side with a disinterest in representing his country.

"People say that because I haven't scored. You'll have to ask them again when I score, because I don't think they'll say the same thing," he said, adding criticism of him not singing the national anthem, La Marseillaise, before games was also linked to his drought in front of goal.

"If I don't sing, and score three goals, people aren't going to talk about the fact I didn't sing. That's the problem. It's been a while since I scored for France. People didn't talk to me about it before. It has nothing to do with not loving the French team, as I've heard. People have to calm down. I love the French team. It's a dream to play in it, but you're not going to force me to sing La Marseillaise. I could take the example of Zidane, who didn't really sing it. Did Platini do it? No, so I don't see where the problem is."

In response to Benzema's comments, the Front National, the right-wing political party, released a statement demanding the forward be excluded from Les Bleus' squad.

That is unlikely to happen any time soon, given Benzema's prodigious ability, particularly with the world and European champions due in Paris next Tuesday for a potentially decisive fixture against Spain.

The striker believes that, after securing a valiant 1-1 draw in Madrid in October, the game should hold no fears for the French.

"Everyone knows they're a good team, but we don't need to put pressure on ourselves. We're playing at home, it's a qualifier, we have to battle to reproduce the same sort of display as we did at their place. Against Spain, we know we're not going to see much of the ball, but we have to try to play on the counter-attack. If we play, we can make them doubt," he said, before adding: "We'll need everyone. But the first ones to be blamed if it doesn't go well will be [Franck] Ribery and me."

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