Karim Benzema was surprisingly included in the France squad for the Euro 2020, the first time he has been picked for the national team since October 2015. Together with Germany, Hungary, and Portugal, he and France will perform in Group F at the UEFA European Championship 2020.
The striker had a strong season for Real Madrid, scoring 22 goals and grabbing eight assists in 32 La Liga games. With Benzema being the main star, Madrid fought for the La Liga title against their arch-rivals Atletico Madrid, eventually failing to become the back-to-back champions, as well as reaching the Champions League Quarter-Finals.
Benzema earned his first France cap in 2007, and he was a member of their dismal Euro 2008 team, which was ousted in the Group Stage. He did not make the team for the 2010 World Cup, but he returned to the squad for Euro 2012 under Laurent Blanc. He is yet to win a trophy with France because he was not picked for the 2018 World Cup, but he does have a respectable scoring record with 27 goals in 81 appearances – an average of one goal per three matches.
Euro 2020: Why did Karim Benzema not play for France for six years?
Prior to Euro 2016, the France Football Federation declared publicly that their coach, Didier Deschamps was not going to pick Benzema because of the alleged claims that the striker was blackmailing his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema is believed to have asked Valbuena to pay blackmailers who threatened with exposing Mathieu's sex tape following contact with Karim's boyhood friend. Instead, Valbuena came to the police.
When the scandal emerged, it shocked the French nation, and the then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls claimed Benzema had "no place" on France's national squad. After being rejected from a place in the France national team for the Euro 2016 on home turf, Benzema started Deschamps had "bowed down to the pressure of a racist section in France" in an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca in June 2016.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was also not included in the squad that eventually won the 2018 World Cup in Russia, followed by comments by the FFF president Noel Le Graet, suggesting that Karim's international career with France was over. Benzema is expected to show up on trial for the supposed incident over Valbuena, adamantly opposed to having done any misconduct.