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Sep 9, 2013

Benzema backed to end France drought

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet believes fans of Les Bleus should not expect Karim Benzema to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo when he plays for his country and that the France forward "needs reassuring" to help him end his 14-month-long international goal drought.

While Ronaldo was scoring a hat-trick to help Portugal come from behind to win in Northern Ireland, his Real Madrid team-mate Benzema, 25, drew a blank in Georgia, and has now not found the net for his country since prior to Euro 2012, a barren run of 1217 minutes.

The ex-Lyon forward is likely to get a further chance to snap that sorry streak in Belarus on Tuesday, but Le Graet told RMC there was work to be done to put Benzema in the right frame of mind to score again for Les Bleus.

"He's a man with such talent," Le Graet said. "We expect a lot of him. We expect him to do the same as Ronaldo with Portugal. When you're a first-team regular at Real, you owe it to yourself to put in different performances to the ones he's produced in the last three or four matches. But he's the one who's most disappointed of all. Technically, he's strong. He is determined to establish himself in the team. But he's been struggling a bit for a while. 

"He's a great player who's going through a tough spell with the France team. Of course we're going to do what we can for him to talk about it. Didier Deschamps has already started talking to him. He needs reassuring. He's a boy with such talent, and we can't let it go to waste."

Benzema's own travails mirror those of Deschamps' entire squad, who have not scored in 479 minutes of international football, and are now just 21 minutes shy of their nation's all-time record which dates back to 1924/25.

In a bid to end that series, Deschamps is expected to again shun his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for a 4-4-2 led by Benzema and Olivier Giroud for only the fourth time in his year-long reign, despite their failure to strike against Georgia.

That would mean consigning Andre-Pierre Gignac to the bench again at kick-off in Minsk. The in-form Marseille forward, 27, replaced Benzema just after the hour mark in Tbilisi, which coincided with France enjoying their best spell of the match.

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," said Giroud, 26, defending Benzema in L'Equipe. "We also took advantage of the Georgians' fatigue. We played higher up the pitch, we had more support, which allowed the forwards to be in the penalty box more. It's not the fact of Karim going off that changed things."

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