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Sep 4, 2013

Karim Benzema 'needs to be loved'

Former France striker Jean-Pierre Papin believes Karim Benzema must be supported if he is to end his 14-game international scoring drought.

Karim Benzema has failed to score in his last 1155 minutes for France.

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A prolific striker during his playing career, 49-year-old Papin was once one of Europe's most feared forwards during spells at the likes of Marseille, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

Now a pundit, the 1991 Ballon d'Or winner told RMC he could empathise with Benzema, who has not scored in 1155 minutes of international football.

"He's going through a rough patch, he's doubting. He needs to score very quickly. He's putting in the effort, but he's a little maladroit [awkward]. He's trembling a little, and we haven't been used to that," explained Papin, who struck 30 times in 50 games for France.

"But all goalscorers go through the same thing. He needs to score, he has to feel supported and loved."

The Real Madrid forward will have the opportunity to end his barren spell, which stretches back to before Euro 2012, in France's back-to-back 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Georgia and Belarus. While criticism in the media has -- at times -- been unrelenting, support for the former Lyon forward from within

Didier Deschamps' squad has been equally constant. "Karim's being singled out, but it's a little unfair. The French team isn't only Benzema. It's also up to us to help him, to put him in the best position possible and take our share of responsibility," Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna told the press at France's training camp outside Paris, adding Benzema's troubles were also allied to his country's opponents.

"If I were playing against the French team, I would defend a lot more given the quality of the players. It doesn't surprise me. People are waiting for France. As a defender, [Franck] Ribery, Benzema and [Olivier] Giroud, it scares you. It's normal they spend more time defending."

Sagna's association of his Arsenal team-mate Giroud with Benzema in the same breath may yet be matched by Deschamps bringing the pair together on the pitch, something the France coach has done only intermittently so far during his one-year tenure.

Given the Madrid forward's propensity to drop deep and his ability to spy the final pass, as well as Giroud's excellent start to the Premier League campaign, Papin believes the pair can work as a strike duo.

"I'm a big fan of the solution that associates Benzema with Giroud. For me, Benzema is no longer an out-and-out striker. He would be much more comfortable with a real number nine in front of him, to be able to score and provide. Right now, I get the impression it's wasted talent."

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