Karim Benzema: Drought not attitude
Karim Benzema has dismissed suggestions that his long international goal drought is "a problem of attitude" and defended his commitment to France's cause.
Benzema, 25, last scored for his country before Euro 2012, and was dropped from the starting XI for last month's 2014 World Cup qualifying win in Belarus.
Both his lack of goals and perceived devil-may-care attitude have attracted criticism, but the Real Madrid forward told the press at the French squad's base at Clairefontaine that people should look more closely.
"I'm a forward so it's up to me to track back first," he said. "That's important. But you can't ask a striker to run as much as a right-back. I'm not going to run back to Hugo Lloris' goal. I run 10 kilometres a match -- I move a lot. In any case, it's not a problem of attitude. When I go out onto the pitch, it's to play football."
Though he has contributed just two goals in Madrid's opening eight La Liga games -- drawing criticism from the club's fans and media -- Benzema has regularly found the net at the Santiago Bernabeu since his move to the Spanish capital from Lyon in 2009. He remains confident he will also eventually improve on his tally of 15 goals in 60 internationals.
"It troubles me not to be able to help the team more and score more goals," said Benzema, whose last goal for his country came in the 4-0 win over Estonia in a friendly on June 5 last year. "They're just periods. This is the longest of my young career. It's not going to last ten years, though. I think it'll all be over soon. I mustn't give up. I have to keep working and not worry too much about it."
He may not get the opportunity to end his barren spell from kick-off in Friday's friendly with Australia, however. Having clearly been coach Didier Deschamps' first-choice striker since the 1998 World Cup-winning captain's appointment after Euro 2012, Benzema heard his boss say earlier this week that Arsenal's Olivier Giroud was equally likely to start at the Parc des Princes.
"He's a good striker and plays his games," Benzema said of his some-time strike partner, who was preferred at the head of Deschamps' 4-2-3-1 formation for the qualifier in Belarus. "It's good for him, his club and Les Bleus. He has to continue doing that. Competition for places comes from everywhere. It's not a Giroud-Benzema duel -- at least I don't see things that way.
"I don't lay claim to anything. I'm in the France squad. I'm happy. We're a squad, there's no number one, two or three. Whether it's me or another player, when we're on the pitch, we have to show that we can help the team win."