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Karim Benzema leaves French national team: a look back at his controversial international career

After missing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Real Madrid striker Benzema has announced the end of his international career.

Update:
After missing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Real Madrid striker Benzema has announced the end of his international career.
JESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELADiarioAS

France striker Karim Benzema has announced his retirement from international football. The Real Madrid star revealed his decision in a social-media post on Monday, writing: “I put in all the effort and made all the mistakes I had to in order to get to where I am today, and I’m proud of that. I’ve written my story and ours has reached its end.” Benzema’s announcement comes on the day he turns 35.

Retires from France duty after missing World Cup

The end of Benzema’s France career - which saw him win 97 caps and score 37 goals for his country - comes after he was ruled out of World Cup 2022 on the eve of the finals in Qatar, having picked up a thigh injury in training.

It was a contentious decision by France head coach Didier Deschamps. The injury would not have prevented Benzema from playing in the latter stages of the World Cup - indeed, the forward rejoined Madrid training on 10 December, with the tournament still ongoing.

International career split in two by ‘Valbuena affair’

Benzema’s France career was split into two parts. Having made his debut for the two-time world champions in 2007, the former Lyon player appeared at Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and World Cup 2014, before being banished from the France set-up for a six-year period between 2015 and 2021.

His exclusion from the international fold came after he was implicated in a sex-tape scandal involving blackmail against his former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena. In November 2021, a French court handed Benzema a one-year suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay €230,000.

Recalled for Euro 2020

Ahead of the coronavirus-delayed European Championship in summer 2021, however, Benzema’s sparkling form for Madrid persuaded Deschamps to hand the striker a recall. Following his return to the France team, he added 16 further caps to the 81 he won before the ‘Valbuena affair’, and scored 10 more goals.

In addition to featuring at Euro 2020 in his second stint as a France player, the 2022 Men’s Ballon d’Or winner also helped the team to the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League trophy. At the tournament finals in October 2021, he scored once as the French beat Belgium 3-2 in the semi-finals, before netting another in a 2-1 final victory over Spain.

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