Football

Deschamps slams 'pitiful' Benzema

Didier Deschamps took a swipe at Karim Benzema on Thursday as the French coach again left the Real Madrid forward out of his 26-man squad for three key matches next month.

The 29-year-old Benzema has not figured for France since October 2015 over allegations of his involvement in a sex-tape scandal featuring midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema and former international teammate Valbuena exchanged barbs this week and Benzema also "liked" an Instagram photo ridiculing Deschamps and striker Olivier Giroud.

Investigators suspect Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and alleged victim Valbuena.

The case is likely to go to court later this year.

Asked about Benzema's recent actions, Deschamps said: "I would say only one word: it's pitiful.

"The French team was built before the Euros (last summer), it was consolidated through the competition, where we managed to reach the final," he added of Benzema's continued omission.

"We have continued to be competitive in qualifying.

"I have a group with balance and harmony."

In a report in French sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday, Benzema claimed he had yet to receive an explanation from Deschamps as to why he continues to be ignored.

The striker said: "Others say I can be called up, not him. If the coach tells me to my face that it is only because of football, fine, I'll continue to work.

"If there is another reason, he just had to tell it to my face and I'm done with him.

"I asked the coach for an explanation. An explanation can be just two minutes long.

"It's not complicated... But I am still at the coach's disposal. The coach knows this."

France take on Paraguay in a home friendly on June 2, Sweden away in a crucial World Cup qualifier on June 9 and England in Paris in a June 13 friendly.

Unsurprisingly, Deschamps has picked 18-year-old Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe, who became France's second-youngest player when he made his debut against Luxembourg in March, for his squad.

Seven Premier League players have been included, with Chelsea's PFA Player of the Year N'Golo Kante joined by teammate Kurt Zouma, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, Tottenham Hotspur pair Hugo Lloris and Moussa Sissoko, and Arsenal duo Giroud and Laurent Koscielny.

"All the players will play," Deschamps told L'Equipe. - WIRE SERVICES


FRANCE SQUAD:

GOALKEEPERS: Alphonse Areola (PSG), Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

DEFENDERS: Lucas Digne (Barcelona), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Benjamin Mendy (Monaco), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

MIDFIELDERS: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Paul Pogba (Man United), Adrien Rabiot (PSG), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham), Corentin Tolisso (Lyon)

FORWARDS: Ousmane Dembele (Dortmund), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Florian Thauvin (Marseille).

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