EURO 2020

Benzema recalls Real Madrid successes with Ronaldo following pair's Euro 2020 reunion

The former Real Madrid team-mates scored a brace each as France drew with Portugal to finish top of Group F.

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Former Real Madrid team mates, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, met on the pitch for the first time since the former's departure from the Bernabéu in the summer of 2018.

And just like their Madrid days, the pair were the scoreboard protagonists albeit on opposite sides, with each netting a brace in the 2-2 thriller between France and Portugal in the closing round of Euro 2020 Group F -- a result that sees both nations go through to the last 16.

Before and after the game, the Frenchman and Portuguese were seen chatting, smiling and sharing an embrace -- clear evidence of the strong bond the two formed at Madrid and still share more than three years after Ronaldo left to join Juventus.

Benzema on Ronaldo reunion

In a press conference after the game, Benzema discussed his reunion with his old Madrid strike partner, saying “it was nice to see” Ronaldo again and recalling the pair’s successes at the Bernabéu, which included four Champions League titles in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

What we did together, the road we’ve taken… We played together for eight, nine years at Real Madrid. We’ve won titles, we’ve scored plenty of goals,” said the France striker, who netted one penalty and one goal from normal play in the 2-2 draw, while both of Ronaldo’s goals came from the spot. “It was nice to see him again on the pitch.”

Asked what the pair spoke about during their encounter on the pitch in Budapest, Benzema replied: “We just asked if everything was good and wished each other well for the rest of the tournament, and to have fun on the pitch and make the difference.”

Karim Benzema of France interacts with Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group F match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena on June 23, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary.

Benzema silences France critics

On account of his spectacular club form for Real Madrid, Karim Benzema was recalled to the France national team for Euro 2020, with much fanfare surrounding his return following an almost six-year hiatus due to his alleged involvement in the blackmailing of former international team mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape. The so-called Valbuena case is still ongoing, with Benzema, who continues to proclaim his innocence, set to face trial in October.

But after having failed to score or make a notable impression in France’s opening two games against Germany and Hungary, criticism of the Real Madrid striker began to intensify. However the 33-year-old center forward silenced some of his critics with his brace against Portugal on Wednesday, which ensured Les Bleus finished top of the tournament’s Group of Death.

Responding to questions about criticism aimed towards him in recent days, Benzema replied it was part and parcel of the game, insisting that he keeps his focus on training and scoring and creating goals on the pitch.

Karim Benzema of France celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group F match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena on June 23, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary.

“Criticism is part of football. I never leave my head hanging. Every time I enter the pitch, I want to score and make others score and today I succeeded in that,” he told reporters.

“I train without stopping, and the pressure has always been there since I was young. Today [against Portugal], there was a bit more. Everyone was waiting for that goal and it motivated me. It’s true that there’s a different type of pressure than at club level, but it always motivates me to give a little more.”

The Marseille-born striker certainly chanelled that pressure correctly on Wednesday night to find the back of the net twice. As a result, France will have an arguably easier last-16 tie against Switzerland next Monday, 28 June; while their Group F counterparts, second-placed Portugal and third-placed Germany, will face Belgium and England, respectively.