Spain vs. France: Why Karim Benzema Is Key to Les Bleus' Chances
Many expected it to be England representing Group D in this quarterfinal, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic made sure Laurent Blanc's men will face Spain in the first taste of knockout football in Euro 2012.
Despite Spain looking far from convincing, they finished first in their group and are unbeaten so far this year. No one will have wanted to land a tie with Vicente del Bosque's side, but you've got to beat the best to win the trophy.
This article outlines why Karim Benzema is the key to France prevailing in a tough encounter, explaining how his game is suited to exploit his opponents.
5. He's Used to It
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First and foremost, Karim Benzema is unlikely to be in awe of Spain's tiki-taka football.
He plays for Real Madrid—a club who happen to deal with pesky rivals Barcelona a minimum of twice a year. Spain's style is very similar to that of La Blaugrana, so the French striker will be well aware of what to do and how to act when not in possession.
Also, he's unlikely to make the same mistakes many do when facing a team who plays like this, such as chase relentlessly and risk burning himself out.
4. Good with the Ball
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Karim Benzema is one of the most talented finishers in the game, but he's also happy to have the ball at his feet.
During Euro 2012, the Frenchman has already received a total of 145 passes from his teammates, proving his compatriots' confidence in his ability to have the ball at his feet.
Against Spain, it's important to use the ball wisely, as adopting a wasteful nature can only harm you.
3. He's Street-Wise
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Against Spain, it's inevitable you'll see less of the ball than La Furia Roja will.
You will get tired. It's important to absorb pressure but also to acquire some breathers throughout the game.
Here are some possession statistics that may frighten you, so you may want to look away:
|Rep. of Ireland||75.9 percent||788|
Teams frequently use spoiler tactics against tiki-taka (see Didier Drogba vs. Barcelona) as a relief method, and Karim Benzema knows how to buy his team some time.
If under huge pressure, his team will look to him to provide some respite.
2. Physical Specimen
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Not only does he have speed, Karim Benzema has the upper body strength to maintain possession under a tough challenge.
You can bet Gerard Pique's long legs will wrap round his body several times throughout the game in order to steal the ball, and Benzema's physical prowess and balance is just as important as his good centre of gravity and close control
It will be a physically taxing match, but Benzema's somatotype is perfect to endure this.
1. Run the Channels, Do the Damage
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Spain are vulnerable.
Italy showed the world how to hit Spain where it hurts by bringing on Antonio Di Natale and letting him run the channels inside the full-back and centre-back.
One sweet pass by Andrea Pirlo, and the Spanish backline was torn apart. Di Natale got inside Pique and finished with aplomb.
It was a great counterattacking move that required speed, vision and superb finishing. There's no reason why Benzema can't mirror this and bag a goal or two against a high defensive line.