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Leeds vs. Norwich: All the 2s

The Toe Poke

'Benzema must deal with the pressure'

World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry has told Karim Benzema to stop moaning about being expected to inspire the French national side to the 2014 World Cup and come to terms with his standing as one Les Bleus' key players.

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Benzema, 25, complained earlier this week that he "can't do it all on [his] own" with the national team, and that he and international team-mate Franck Ribery would be the scapegoats if the upcoming Group I qualifiers with Georgia and Spain do not go according to plan.

Dugarry, a member of France's World Cup and Euro 2000-winning teams, explained to Le Parisien that the Real Madrid forward has no choice other than to live up to expectations.

"He's right to say that we're counting a lot on him," he said. "Just like Ribery. They're the two stars of the team. One of them plays at Real Madrid, the other at Bayern Munich. It's normal to count more on them than on the others.

"In my time, everything was asked of Zidane, and not a lot of me. That's called having a status. He wanted it, he has it, and he mustn't run away from it. Benzema doesn't have the right to complain about the pressure he's under. He has to accept it."

France coach Didier Deschamps, who played alongside Dugarry for Les Bleus, acknowledged that Benzema had struggled to keep his weight under control recently as the forward finds himself employed in only a bit-part role with his club. Dugarry, now a respected media pundit, believes the former Lyon striker's attitude remains a problem.

"A few weeks ago it was clear that he'd let himself go in terms of his weight," he said. "I wasn't next to his scales, but it was obvious he had a few extra kilos. You can't allow yourself to do any old thing because you have talent.

"I don't give a damn about these stories about him not singing La Marseillaise but, in sporting terms, he doesn't commit himself enough. Benzema has clearly dropped off a bit. But he's a leader, and doesn't have the right to behave that way.

"I like him as a player, but he has to do a lot more. In football, I prefer an average player whose determination and professionalism are exemplary to a genius who relies solely on his talent. I say that all the more easily because I was a player who didn't work enough during his own career!"

Despite his reservations, Dugarry conceded Benzema would still in the starting line-up for his upcoming qualifiers at the Stade de France, though the former Birmingham City maverick maintained it was a choice born of a lack of a suitable alternative.

"The problem with putting Benzema on the bench is who do you replace him with? You need someone who'll perform. Giroud? For me, he's still not quite up to the highest level. All things being equal, Benzema is better than him."


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