Olivier Giroud

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Le Graet says Benzema will never play for France again

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France Football president Noel le Graet says Karim Benzema will never play for France again, and Benzema is furious.

The head man said Saturday that Benzema will not return to the French national team, despite calls for the Real Madrid striker to make his return to the national team. Benzema has not played for France since 2015, frozen out as part of the fallout from the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape affair.

It is that incident and that alone that has kept Benzema off the field for Les Blues, said le Graet. “For me, Benzema is a very good player. I have never criticised his qualities,” le Graet told RMC Sport on Saturday. “On the contrary, he is proving again this year at Madrid that he is one of the best players in his position. But the adventure with France is over.”

Benzema responded soon after on social media, pleading for a chance to play again and firing back at le Graet’s suggestion that he is done.

“Noël, I thought that you did not interfere with the decisions of the national team coach!” Benzema wrote on Twitter. “Know that it will be me and me alone who decides when my international career is over. If you think that I am finished, let me play for a country that I am eligible to play for and we will see.”

Benzema was also eligible to play for Algeria before choosing France, but according to FIFA rules, he cannot switch to another national team having racked up 81 career appearances for Les Blues.

Pressure from fans to call in Benzema has increased with Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann both in poor form, leaving Kylan Mbappe to shoulder much of the attacking load. Benzema, meanwhile, has scored 11 goals in 15 appearances for Real Madrid across all competitions this season. French publication L’Equipe ran a poll asking whether Benzema was the best striker in France, and 73% of responses indicated “yes.”

Euro 2020 Roundup: Ronaldo scores hat-trick, France, Turkey qualify

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The final two rounds of Euro 2020 qualification got underway on Thursday with plenty of great goals on display. Four nations qualified directly into the tournament as well, as we get closer to the final list of 24 teams.


Portugal rout Lithuania

While the result wasn’t a surprise, it was still an impressive performance from the defending European champions.

Portugal, behind a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, thrashed Lithuania, 6-0, at the Estadio Algarve. That included this terrific strike into the corner from outside the box, bringing the crowd to their feet.

It was Ronaldo’s ninth hat-trick for Portugal, which takes him to 98 goals overall along with 12 goals for Portugal in this calendar year, an incredible strike rate. Pizzi, Goncalo Paciencia and Bernardo Silva all scored as well. With a win at Luxembourg in three days, Portugal can assure qualification back to the European Championships, where it can defend its crown.


France comes back to beat Moldova

It’s safe to say that Les Bleus fans would gladly have taken a 2-1 result over Moldova in Euro 2020 qualifying, but the journey to get there was definitely out of the ordinary.

Moldova’s Vadim Rata put the visitors up 1-0 in the 9th minute with a goal-mouth scramble after a failed clearance from by Clement Lenglet, putting France under even more pressure. France brought wave and wave of attack towards the Moldova goal, but it was a controversial goal, credited to Raphael Varane, which brought France level.

In the 41st minute, as Olivier Giroud went for a ball, it appeared Giroud motioned to control the ball with his arm, only to move it out of his way at the last second, enabling Varane to head home. Giroud made amends for missing many chances throughout the match with a penalty kick goal in the 79th minute, earned by left back Lucas Digne.

With the win, France qualified for the 2020 Euros. Also qualifying on Thursday was Turkey, England, and the Czech Republic.

Here’s a look at the rest of Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualification results.

Qualification Group A

England 7-0 Montenegro
Czech Republic 2-1 Kosovo

Qualification Group B

Portugal 6-0 Lithuania
Serbia 3-2 Luxembourg

Qualification Group H

Turkey 0-0 Iceland
Albania 2-2 Andorra
France 2-1 Moldova

Pulisic Watch: American makes Chelsea history

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Well, that was something, wasn’t it?

USMNT star Christian Pulisic ended his Chelsea goal drought in style, scoring the first three goals of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Burnley in “perfect hat trick” fashion on Saturday at Turf Moor.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The 21-year-old used his left foot, right foot, and head to score the goals and was nearly as dangerous as a playmaker.

Here are his match stats, and all of his influential moments.

Touches: 50
Passing: 80 percent
Key passes: 3
Crosses: 3
Shots on target: 4
Possession lost: 1
Interceptions: 1
Tackles: 1
Duels: 3 of 9

Match moments

5th minute: Holds up play, carrying the water then zipping to the front of the attack in hopes of a rebound as Willian blazes high and wide of the frame.

14th minute: Dribbles through a tight alley and then takes a moment to allow Mason Mount room on the right, but the Englishman can’t get a good shot away.

20th minute: Makes a clever run into the left corner, but his cross is a bit wayward and sails to Burnley.

21st minute: Here’s the bell ringer, as the Yanks’ 21-year-old scores his first Premier League goal in a matching minute. Pulisic seizes on a bad touch and dribbles James Tarkowski before rolling a low shot across goal past Nick Pope. A quality strike to beat two quality players. Pulisic lets out a primal scream of relief.

28th minute: Collects a big cross with his chest and forces a low save from Pope which earns Chelsea a corner kick.

38th minute: Dribbles up a left-wing alley before finding Abraham for a shot that was curled wide of the far post.

43rd minute: Floats a far post cross to Willian, who volleys to Pope.

52nd minute: Wins a 50-50 with Jeff Hendrick, then gets the ball back and works the midfielder again to get the ball to his team in the attacking third.

54th minute: Again dribbles through the center in acres of space this time after a Mount pass, playing a through ball for Abraham that the interfered with Englishman can’t reach.

56th minute: FLAWLESS HAT TRICK! Or perfect hat trick, or natural hat trick. Whatever. The Pulisic Party continues with a header to join his right- and left-footed goals as Mason Mount reserves a corner back into the fray.

67th minute: Lofts a ball toward the back post but Willian cannot reach the ball.

72nd minute: Callum Hudson-Odoi comes on for Willian, and Olivier Giroud and Reece James had already subbed on. Pulisic will go 90.

80th minute: Pulisic chips a cross toward Giroud, but it hangs in the air and the Frenchman has understandable trouble getting his head on the ball.

86th minute: The American isn’t perfect, and gives away possession leading to an audacious, wonderful, Goal of the Month contending shot from Jay Rodriguez.

Euro 2020 qualifying: France settles for draw with Turkey

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Euro 2020 qualifying continued on Monday and included a top-of-the-group clash in Group H.

[READ: England rout Bulgaria in game marred by racist chants]

France 1-1 Turkey

France spoiled a chance at home to put one foot in Euro 2020 after conceding late in the match and settling for a draw with Turkey.

Despite playing without a lot of starters – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and Hugo Lloris are all out injured – France still was strong in the first half and peppered Turkey with 12 shots. Goalkeeper Mert Gunok made an outstanding double-save in the first half and Leicester City’s Çağlar Söyüncü did his best to keep Antoine Griezmann in front of him.

In the 72nd minute, Olivier Giroud came on the field as a substitute and four minutes later, he put France in front to the delight of the home crowd at the Stade de France. What else, but a header off a corner. However, the lead didn’t last long. Off a free kick in the 82nd minute, Hakan Calhanoglu’s delivery was nodded home by Kaan Ayhan. The 1-1 draw leaves both France and Turkey tied with 19 points from eight qualifying matches. It also means that Turkey hasn’t lost to France over two games in this qualifying cycle.

Here’s a look at the rest of Monday’s scores:

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifying scores

Group A

Bulgaria 0-6 England

Kosovo 2-0 Montenegro

Group B

Lithuania 1-2 Serbia

Ukraine 2-1 Portugal

Group H

Iceland 2-0 Andorra

Moldova 0-4 Albania

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Giroud is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.