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Europa League round of 16 draw

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President Le Graet backs Benzema

France Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has told RMC Radio Karim Benzema "loves the French national team" but should "get angry more often" to stem criticism of his laid-back style.

Real Madrid striker Benzema, 25, has often been criticised in France for his attitude to pulling on the blue shirt - criticism that has grown as his international goal drought has extended to more than a year.

But Le Graet said people should not be so quick to decry Benzema, who delayed a knee operation until after his return to France following Les Bleus' recent tour of South America.

"If Karim Benzema didn't love the French team, he would have found an excuse not to go on the tour," he said.

"He wanted to play, and was completely ready to do so. He loves the French national team. He has a nonchalant attitude which doesn't do him a lot of good. But who could say he's not a great player? I would like him to get angry more often."

Benzema's goal drought is one of a number of problems facing coach Didier Deschamps, who saw his side lose friendlies in Uruguay and Brazil.

Having been beaten by Spain in their most recent World Cup qualifier, runners-up spot in Group I appears the best they can hope for, while Deschamps' record of five defeats in his first 11 internationals is worse than any of his predecessors dating back to 1964.

But Le Graet said those disappointing statistics did not reflect a brighter reality, explaining: "Our squad is making enormous progress.

"We have to qualify for the World Cup. We need the youngsters to be able to play. They need to be adults come Euro 2016. We're in a period which isn't difficult, but exciting.

"We have a team that has a very high technical level, they complement each other well and they're very young."

The president added that he believed the South American tour had been invaluable in allowing young players such as Lyon's Clement Grenier and Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala to make their senior international debuts.

"I think the tour was positive. There were some new faces," he added. "If we look at it, there is the possibility and hope to have a very competitive team come September. We have a high-quality squad."


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