Karim Benzema felt everyone in France was waiting for his return to the international scoresheet after his brace in the 2-2 Euro 2020 draw with holders Portugal.

The world champions sealed top spot as the only undefeated team in Group F after a pulsating encounter in Budapest, where a pair of Cristiano Ronaldo penalties saw the five-time Ballon d'Or winner draw level with Ali Daei as the leading international goalscorer of all time on 109.

Benzema's lengthy exile from France duty means he is nowhere near such dizzying individual numbers, but he levelled from the spot before half-time at the Puskas Arena.

That was goal 28 for Les Bleus, coming almost six years after 27 arrived as part of a double in an October 2015 friendly against Armenia.

The wait for number 29 was nowhere near as long as he latched on to Paul Pobga's sumptuous throughball two minutes into the second half.

"There is a lot of joy, pride, I think everyone was waiting for it," he told beIN Sport.

"There was this pressure on me from all over the country. But I'm a football player, I'm a professional, I need that pressure too. 

"So it's nice to score and to be qualified. For my club, I'm used to scoring, but I wanted to score in this team because I know that goals are very important in this competition."

 

Benzema's goals meant France secured a comparatively favourable last-16 tie against Switzerland, with Portugal having to face the world's number-one rated side Belgium and Germany – who flirted with disaster in a 2-2 draw with Hungary – pouching a Wembley date versus England.

"It was a big game against a great nation. We know Portugal, [they have] a lot of intensity. There were goals and opportunities," the Real Madrid striker said in a separate interview with TF1.

"We tried to play, to get chances and we managed to score two goals. 

"There is all the pressure around me, which is normal but you should never give up. This is what I do, trying to make movements and today it smiled on me but the most important is that we are qualified."

Benzema added: "These are not doubts, but I feel such an expectation from the whole country, which is normal for me after five years of waiting. I will savour it with everyone.

"This is what we need to go to the end. Personally, it warmed my heart and I hope there will be other evenings like this."

Cristiano Ronaldo equalled Ali Daei's all-time international goalscoring record as he held his nerve to haul Portugal to a 2-2 draw with France and into the knockout rounds of Euro 2020.

Ronaldo scored the first of three penalties awarded by Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz at the Puskas Arena, although his old Real Madrid strike partner Karim Benzema levelled from the spot and put the world champions ahead at the start of the second half.

At that stage, the holders were staring at elimination as Les Blues eyed a measure of revenge for their Euro 2016 final defeat, but Ronaldo stepped up again at his country's hour of need when Jules Kounde was penalised for handball.

Having already overhauled Miroslav Klose – whose countrymen Germany flirted with disaster before salvaging a 2-2 draw against Hungary in Munich – to become the leading combined scorer at World Cups and European Championships combined, Ronaldo beat Hugo Lloris again to pull level with the mark set by Iran's Daei – one that has long been in the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's sights.

Paul Pobga unlocked the Portugal defence with a glorious 16th-minute throughball, although Kylian Mbappe's finish was not of the same standard and Rui Patricio saved.

Opposite number Hugo Lloris did not cover himself in glory when he rashly tried to punch Joao Moutinho's free-kick and clattered into Danilo Pereira. The France captain was cautioned and unable to atone as Ronaldo sent him the wrong way from the spot.

He was quickly followed into the book by Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez as Lahoz placed himself at the centre of the contest, and the official handed France a lifeline as he penalised Nelson Semedo for blocking off Mbappe and Benzema dispatched from 12 yards.

Another delicious Pogba pass completed a swift turnaround, as Benzema got away from Ruben Dias to coolly slot home two minutes into the second half.

Ronaldo almost found an instant response when he met Raphael Guerreiro's and he levelled with an hour played, Lahoz pointing to the spot once more when Kounde handled the Juventus star's delivery.

Pogba remained the game's outstanding player and Rui Patricio clawed out a stunning 25-yard effort from the Manchester United man before springing up to sharply deny Griezmann on the follow-up.

In stoppage time, Lahoz passed up the chance to give the fourth spot-kick of a fairly remarkable personal outing and a VAR check spared Bruno Fernandes for a clumsy challenge on fellow substitute Kingsley Coman.

What does it mean? France top 'group of death' as Portugal and Germany live to fight another day

The value of Benzema's brace was born out in France topping the group as the only undefeated team, earning a comparatively favourable tie against Switzerland in Bucharest. By contrast, Portugal travel to Seville to take on the world's number-one ranked side Belgium and Germany must face England at Wembley.

Didier Deschamps believes Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann are developing a useful understanding in France's attack at Euro 2020.

The world champions will seal top spot in Group F on Wednesday if they are able to beat Portugal, their conquerors in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

An already enviable array of talent at Deschamps' disposal was bolstered by Benzema's return from a near six-year international exile ahead of the tournament, allowing the head coach to field a dream forward line of Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe alongside the Real Madrid striker.

The returns so far have been occasionally promising, if not prolific, with Mats Hummels' own goal the difference in a 1-0 opening win over Germany before Griezmann salvaged a 1-1 draw against group outsiders Hungary – his solitary shot of the competition so far.

In the latter match, Benzema passed to Griezmann on two occasions, receiving possession from the Barcelona man three times.

Against France, an instant understanding between Benzema and Mbappe was notable, as the Paris Saint-Germain superstar was found 12 times by his elder team-mate.

By contrast, Griezmann passed to Benzema once and received the ball from him on three occasions.

 

"That was your impression. I don't think that was our opponents' impression," Deschamps told a pre-match news conference in Budapest when it was put to him the Griezmann-Benzema link was not yet as fruitful as had been hoped.

"They had some really good actions together.

"Of course, we can always do better but, speaking of misunderstandings, this is impossible.

"There's also Kylian and the whole team, because the ball comes from the defenders and the midfield players and it is always about getting the ball as fast as possible in front of the opponent's goal."

Griezmann is playing in a slightly more withdrawn right-sided attacking role, with Benzema as the central focal point and Mbappe using his electrifying pace to get in behind opponents down the left.

While Deschamps acknowledges this is not Griezmann's preferred position, he believes his versatility and adaptability will help to make the trident a success.

"I didn't teach him anything. Since I've known him, I knew he could play in all offensive positions," he added,

"Maybe it's not his preferred position, but it's a more general thought in terms of can it have a positive impact on the balance of the team and make us more dangerous for the opponent, can it make us better?"

Kylian Mbappe was left disappointed by Olivier Giroud's comments over a perceived lack of service, though he insists the situation between the pair will not overshadow France's bid for glory at Euro 2020.

The reigning world champions kick off their campaign in the delayed tournament on Tuesday, as they take on Group F rivals Germany at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

Les Bleus recorded successive 3-0 wins in warm-up fixtures against Wales and Bulgaria, Giroud scoring twice against the latter after coming on as a substitute.

However, the Chelsea striker – who now has 46 international goals, just five behind Thierry Henry in the country's all-time scoring list – said in a post-match press conference that he did not feel team-mates had looked for him enough when in possession.

His remarks were perceived to be aimed at Mbappe - the pair completed just one pass between each other during their time together on the pitch – and the 22-year-old had the opportunity to respond on Sunday, having been denied the opportunity to speak to the media earlier in the week.

"We talked about it, we discussed it, it made people talk, everyone knows what happened. I was a little affected, but we are not going to make a big deal out of it," Mbappe said.

"The team remains the most important thing, such situations are not going to disrupt our preparation. We are focused on the same objective."

Asked again about the relationship between the pair, the Paris Saint-Germain forward made clear he was not happy with Giroud airing his feelings to the media, rather than in the changing room after the friendly fixture.

"What he said didn't bother me more than that, I'm a striker and I've had this feeling 365 times in a game," Mbappe continued.

"I congratulated him in the locker room, he didn't say anything to me and then I heard from the press. He didn't say anything bad. It's more the fact of him talking publicly, I would have preferred him to come and be more open in the locker room.

"But that's not a problem, these are small things. The team does not need us to get in the way."

He added: "The most important thing is to talk about it, to straighten things out and put it all after the group.

"I repeat, the most important thing is the group and this European Championship. This micro-episode disturbed the fact that we are focused on one thing and one thing only, it is the Euros and this first match against Germany."

Mbappe made clear that while he may not pass the ball as often to Giroud during games as, for example, France team-mate Karim Benzema or PSG colleague Neymar, that is due to situational factors, rather than any personal preference.

"Neymar touches the ball 150 times per game. Benzema touches it 80. Olivier touches it a lot less given his profile. If you compare the number of passes I make to Benzema or Neymar compared to Giroud, of course it is fewer to Olivier," he said.

"But that doesn't mean that I don't look for him. It's just that his profile is different. Benzema comes 40 metres from the goal to get touches, Giroud prefers to stay up front and be present in the box.

"You imply that I do not want to pass to Giroud. I say that these players have different profiles."

Didier Deschamps has confirmed Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema are fit to play a part in France's Euro 2020 opener against Germany.

Griezmann sustained a calf injury in France's 3-0 win over Bulgaria on Tuesday in their final warm-up match and Benzema left the pitch before half-time with a dead leg.

However, both players took part in full training on Saturday and Deschamps expects to have a fully-fit squad to choose from at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Asked if Griezmann and Benzema will be available against Germany, Deschamps told TF1: "Yes, it looks like it. Everyone took part in yesterday's training session.

"We have two sessions left before the game and there shouldn't be any problems."

Griezmann's return to fitness is a big boost for France, with the Barcelona forward having scored more goals against Germany (four) with France than against any other team.

He has also been directly involved in more goals (14) than any other European player over the past two major tournaments – 10 goals and four assists in 14 games at Euro 2016 and the World Cup in 2018.

Benzema was not involved in either tournament for Les Blues after being exiled from the national team for nearly six years prior to his surprise recall last month.

The Real Madrid striker made his first appearance for the world champions in five years and 237 days in the recent 3-0 friendly win against Wales, a game in which he missed a penalty.

That was Benzema's third penalty miss in a row for his national side, having also failed to convert against Switzerland and Sweden in 2014, and he only lasted 41 minutes before limping off against Bulgaria.

But Benzema is now expected to start against Germany in Tuesday's huge Group F clash in Bavaria.

"If I resumed training with the squad yesterday it means I've got nothing amiss, no pain," he told TF1.

"Physically I feel good as I was training indoors, so I'm 100 per cent."

France and Germany have met on five previous occasions at major tournaments, winning two matches apiece and drawing the other.

Predicting the winner of a major international tournament is a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can sometimes be something of a fool's errand – as proven by Greece and Denmark.

But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data could potentially give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform comes in.

Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's check out the results, some of which may come as something of a surprise…

MOST-LIKELY WINNERS: France (20.5 per cent)

Well, this one probably isn't much of a shock. Anyone who has looked through the squad at Didier Deschamps' disposal has likely come to the conclusion that Les Bleus will have to implode a la the 2010 World Cup if they're to be beaten.

Most of the key players from their 2018 World Cup-winning squad are present, and now they can call upon the services of Karim Benzema again, which is no small thing.

 

Our model also gives France a 46.8 per cent chance of finish top of the so-called 'Group of Death', which also includes defending champions Portugal and a Germany side desperate for redemption after World Cup humiliation in Russia.

If France are successful, Deschamps will become the first man in history to win the World Cup and Euros as both a player and manager.

2. Belgium (15.7 per cent)

Could this be the last-chance saloon for Belgium's 'Golden Generation'? Our predictor model certainly suggests they're still in with a great chance of winning the title, with their 15.7 per cent the second highest.

They have the joint-oldest squad at the tournament (29.2 years) along with Sweden, so while they're certainly not a young team, several of their best players are right at the peak of their powers, with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku coming into the tournament arguably in the form of their lives.

 

They looked sharp in qualifying – for what it's worth – with a 100 per cent win record and a 40-goal haul that wasn't matched by any other team, while they will be strong favourites to win their group ahead of Russia, Denmark and Finland.

3. Spain (11.3 per cent)

Now, one thing our model cannot take into consideration is a coronavirus outbreak. La Roja had to field their Under-21s for the senior side's final pre-Euros warm-up game against Lithuania – while it means nothing for their chances at the tournament, they did ease to a 4-0 win.

It remains to be seen if there are any further consequences of Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente testing positive for COVID-19, but if we assume Luis Enrique is able to rely on a squad that's more or less the selection he initially picked, they will at least be strong options to reach the latter stages.

Although perhaps not blessed with the kind of 'superstar' talent they've had at other tournaments over the past 15 years or so, they do have a highly regarded coach and beat Germany 6-0 as recently as November. Nevertheless, their disrupted build-up to the tournament could be telling when their campaign starts.

4. Germany (9.8 per cent)

Joachim Low's going to have to upset the odds if he is to enjoy one last hurrah with Die Mannschaft. The World Cup-winner coach is stepping down a year early after the Euros, with Hansi Flick set to take over.

Having the likes of Thomas Muller back in the squad after a stunning couple of seasons with Bayern Munich will surely improve their chances – though our model doesn't take player data into account.

 

The predictor will see that Germany have failed to beat Denmark and North Macedonia in two of their three most recent games, while they also have a particularly hard group.

5. Portugal (9.6 per cent)

The other major footballing power from the 'Group of Death' – our predictor suggests Portugal are the least likely of themselves, France and Germany to win Euro 2020.

Nevertheless, La Selecao will surely feel good about themselves heading into the competition. Their squad is arguably significantly better than the one that won Euro 2016, while coach Fernando Santos is a shrewd operator.

They also have this chap up front called Cristiano Ronaldo, who is one away from setting a new record for the most goals (10) in European Championship history.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

According to our predictor, a resurgent Italy and Netherlands are the next most likely to win the tournament, which would represent a rather good turnaround from missing out on the 2018 World Cup – in fact, the Oranje weren't at Euro 2016 either.

At this point there are probably many of you pondering – assuming you've not just scrolled straight down to the list – about England's chances.

Well, the Three Lions' ranking here is a prime example of how a good draw can really pay. While they should – in theory, at least – have more than enough firepower to get out of a group that also contains Croatia, neighbours Scotland and Czech Republic, their route to the final would almost certainly see them come up against one – or more – of Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. They're also probably not helped by the fact they've played more Euros games (31) without reaching the final than any other team.

England's 5.2 per cent chance of success sees them behind Denmark (5.4 per cent), whose path to the final would likely be a little kinder, though the caveat is that the Three Lions could potentially play the vast majority of their matches on home soil at Wembley.

Tournament debutants North Macedonia are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the least likely to win Euro 2020, with their chances rated at 0.02 per cent.

 

6. Italy (7.6 per cent)

7. Netherlands (5.9 per cent)

8. Denmark (5.4 per cent)

9. England (5.2 per cent)

10. Switzerland (2.3 per cent)

11. Sweden (1.5 per cent)

12. Croatia (1.0 per cent)

13. Russia (1.0 per cent)

14. Poland (0.8 per cent)

15. Ukraine (0.8 per cent)

16. Wales (0.6 per cent)

17. Turkey (0.4 per cent)

18. Czech Republic (0.2 per cent)

19. Austria (0.2 per cent)

20. Finland (0.1 per cent)

21. Hungary (0.1 per cent)

22. Scotland (0.1 per cent)

23. Slovakia (0.04 per cent)

24. North Macedonia (0.02 per cent)

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America have the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Following club seasons either laden with trophies or padded with statistical achievements – or, in some cases, a bit of both – a few elite-level performances could make the difference in the race to win France Football's famous award.

Stats Perform has chosen a shortlist of 14 players who could make themselves Ballon d'Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month...

 

Karim Benzema

Remarkably, Karim Benzema failed to win a trophy with Real Madrid despite registering 30 goals and nine assists in 46 games in all competitions.

That form did bring his international exile to an end, though, and if he keeps it up for France over the coming month, a Ballon d'Or challenge is not out of the question.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Had Pep Guardiola's men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy, the Ballon d'Or might be De Bruyne's already. Leading Belgium to Euros glory would probably do the job.

Ruben Dias

The other prime candidate for City's player of the season, Ruben Dias was a colossal performer at the heart of their defence after joining from Benfica, winning the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

Defenders' difficulties winning big individual prizes are well documented, and the last to lift the Ballon d'Or – Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – did so after leading Italy to the World Cup.

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes was heartbroken to lose the Europa League final on penalties as his wait for a trophy with Manchester United goes on.

However, a combined 46 direct goal involvements – the most of any Premier League player – means individual glory could be on the cards should Fernandes and Portugal shine.

Phil Foden

The PFA Young Player of the Year winner, Phil Foden blossomed in 2020-21 from prodigious talent to integral player for both City and England.

His Ballon d'Or chances are probably slimmer than those of a couple of his City team-mates, but long-awaited success for the Three Lions could put him right in the mix.

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

Winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Kane is England's undisputed star going into Euro 2020 and has every chance of topping the scoring charts again.

N'Golo Kante

Arguably the popular choice for the award, N'Golo Kante won the Champions League with Chelsea after being named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final and the final against City.

France are most observers' favourites to win the Euros and, if they do, Kante will surely be facing short odds to win the ultimate individual trophy – even if it's one in which he has little interest.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Winning the Euros with Poland might be a stretch, but finishing as top goalscorer is certainly achievable.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

With eight goals in his past nine games for Belgium, the 28-year-old could well be the man to fire Roberto Martinez's side to glory, which would make him very hard to overlook.

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day. The Euros could be his ticket to glory in 2021.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it does put him right in the mix. If he can finally win the Copa America with Argentina, Ballon d'Or number seven may well follow.

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he has only an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

He typically produces in a Brazil shirt, though, and winning the Copa America would propel him right back into the mix for the individual prize he supposedly craves above all others.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

Ronaldo won his fourth of five Ballons d'Or after Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016, and there's little doubt he would be vying for a sixth if they defend that trophy.

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

Should Uruguay upset the odds at the Copa America, you can bet Suarez will be in the running for the Ballon d'Or. Quite what Barca fans would make of that is hard to say.

France head coach Didier Deschamps confirmed Karim Benzema suffered a "knock" that will require further assessment after the world champions finalised their Euro 2020 preparations.

Benzema was withdrawn during the first half of France's 3-0 victory over Bulgaria, having fallen awkwardly after challenging for a header in the pre-Euros warm-up fixture on Tuesday.

With France's opening game at the rescheduled European Championship just a week away – against Germany on June 15 – the sight of Benzema limping from the field represents a major worry for France.

But Deschamps gave little away in his assessment of the blow, telling TF1: "It's a knock on the knee, which also affects the muscle. He felt he was getting stiff so he asked to be subbed.

"The medical staff are taking care of him."

The good news for France is that they have a ready-made replacement for Benzema in Olivier Giroud, who led the line during their victorious 2018 World Cup campaign.

Giroud netted the 45th and 46th goals of his international career late in the second half to move within five of all-time top scorer Thierry Henry's 51 – all despite Deschamps not expecting to use him much against Bulgaria.

"Taking into account the situation in which he arrived, psychologically and especially physically, I had planned to bring him in for less time," Deschamps added.

"He's still a scorer, with a foolproof mind. I'm not going to complain, and the squad will need it too. We will need all our strength. He is part of it too, [that's] good for him and the France team. 

"I think he has played more tonight than the last three months combined."

 

Paul Pogba has warned France they need to remain humble to avoid Euro 2020 disappointment, adamant they will just be seen as a "PlayStation team" if they are not successful.

Les Bleus head into the Euros well fancied for more glory, having won the 2018 World Cup and seeing their already-remarkable pool of talent improve even further.

France are one of two European nations – with Belgium – to have reached at least the quarter-finals of the past three major tournaments, while their squad accumulated the second-most minutes (522,421) across the top five European Leagues this season among those to qualify for the Euros – they certainly are not short of experience.

As many as 14 of their 26-man squad were in Russia three years ago, while they are now able to add Karim Benzema into the mix again – the Real Madrid star recalled after nearly six years in the international wilderness.

Benzema goes into the tournament on the back of his best goalscoring season (30 in all competitions) since netting 32 in 2011-12 and bolsters a position that was arguably seen as the weakest in the France squad, with Olivier Giroud often chosen to lead the line in Russia.

 

Add Benzema to Kylian Mbappe and a semi-resurgent Antoine Griezmann, who had a hand in 25 goals (15 scored and 10 assists) across all competitions since the turn of the year for Barcelona, and Didier Deschamps has a potentially frightening front three.

Griezmann boasts a brilliant record in international tournaments after being involved in more goals (14) over the past two such events than any other European player.

 

But France are not just a force to be reckoned with in attack, their record of 1.6 shots on target conceded per 90 minutes in the Euro 2020 qualifiers was not bettered by any other team, though their pedigree and reputation will count for nothing if they fail to rise to the occasion at the Euros, according to Pogba.

"We have a PlayStation team but it will remain a PlayStation team if we don't win a trophy," the Manchester United midfielder told Eurosport.

"We have to live up to expectations and there'll be even more expected with Karim's return. It's nice to see a teamsheet like that... It's always an honour but you always have to be present on the pitch.

"Being world champions and having a team like that, we will be expected to do even more.

"We must remain humble. I want to give this message: It's not a foregone conclusion. We hear a lot of talk but we keep out feet on the ground."

Les Bleus will be attempting to become the fourth team to win back-to-back World Cup and Euros – in no particular order – after West Germany (Euro 1972, World Cup 1974), France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) and Spain (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012).

If Deschamps lifts the trophy at Euro 2020, he will become the first person ever to win the World Cup and Euros both as player and manager.

There is lots on the line for France, and they certainly have a squad capable of making amends for their Euro 2016 final disappointment.

But, as Pogba has pointed out, arrogance will do them little good in a group that also contains Germany and defending champions Portugal.

The year-long delay to Euro 2020 has shifted the narrative for a host of stars, and meant the long wait for a return to the big stage has been extended for others.

Now, though, Europe's elite are set to battle it out as Portugal defend the title they won in France five years ago.

Some players enter the competition in great form and with little baggage, but for others this month-long tournament is a chance to make a big splash, or live up to long-held expectations.

Here, Stats Perform looks at two famous footballing nations, four big-name stars and a coach who bows out of his current job and may have designs on his next assignment.

Gareth Bale: Finished or a new beginning?

The wing wizard can do little wrong in the eyes of Wales and Tottenham supporters, and perhaps now there is a glimmer of hope for his Real Madrid career.

At the end of a season-long loan at Spurs, it seemed likely Bale would head back to Madrid and spend the final year of his contract largely on the sidelines. His future looked to be one of training, playing the odd Copa del Rey game and making fleeting LaLiga appearances, and spending his happiest hours on the region's best golf courses.

Now that Zinedine Zidane has moved on, that could change all of a sudden, and Bale has an immediate chance to make an impression on new Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti when he captains Wales at the Euros.

Bale joined Madrid in 2013, when Ancelotti was embarking on his first spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, but his career in Spain looked to have all but conked out 12 months ago.

The door certainly seems open for the 31-year-old to do just that as, in his presentation news conference at Madrid, Ancelotti said: "Gareth has not played much in the Premier League [in 2020-21], but he scored lots of goals, and was very effective in recent games when he had a chance to play.

"He is coming back, I know him very well, he will be motivated to play better and have a great season, no doubt."

At Spurs, he scored 16 goals across all competitions at an average of one every 104.44 minutes, and his match fitness appeared to be building up nicely when the season ended.

Bale exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 11.07 quite handsomely, and for the first time since the 2015-16 season he scored more goals than he had big chances.

He had 15 such chances, defined by Opta as situations "where a player should reasonably be expected to score".

Bale is said by some observers to be considering retiring after Euro 2020, but that could be a waste of a still-luminous talent and Ancelotti is sure to be closely watching.

Eden Hazard: Brilliant Belgian has been a Real disappointment

So often sparkling for Belgium and Chelsea in the past, Hazard has left Madrid supporters wondering what has happened to that fizz since he landed in Spain.

He started just seven games in LaLiga in the season just ended, a string of muscle injuries and a spell out with COVID-19 ruining his campaign.

When fit enough to feature, the forward's numbers have been way down on those that he produced – to take a pertinent example – during Belgium's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

A fair way of assessing his figures is to look at how Hazard contributes for every 90 minutes he is involved with club and country, and the comparison between his displays in Belgium's run to reach this tournament and in 2020-21 at Madrid shows an alarming dip.

His chances created total per 90 minutes falls from 4.6 to 1.0, his number of touches of the ball slides from 95.1 to 73.8, and his dribbles attempted plummet from 7.4 with Belgium to 4.2 in Madrid's season.

His involvements in shot-ending sequences of play fall from 10.8 to 4.9 per 90 minutes, and analysis of goal-ending sequences shows his contribution drops from 1.9 with Belgium to 0.8 per 90 minutes with Madrid.

It bears remembering that Hazard has not had the run of games that would give him full match fitness. If Real Madrid fans want any succour, they can find it in his Belgium statistics and must hope the coming month sees the 30-year-old roll back his form a couple of years.

A fit and firing Hazard would be a huge asset to Ancelotti, who is expecting the former Chelsea star to have an impact next term.

"Hazard is a top player, he has had injury problems, and not shown his top potential yet here," Ancelotti said. "I believe he can do that next year, he wants to, is motivated."

 

Karim Benzema: Have France really missed him?

Nobody doubts Benzema's ability or his current form. Firing 23 goals for Real Madrid in LaLiga showed he is coming into Euro 2020 in great shape.

The thing is: few expected him to play any part in this tournament.

Off-field matters and an impending court case have seen Benzema frozen out by France, the 33-year-old sidelined from international duty since 2015 following allegations he had a part in a plot to blackmail former Les Bleus player Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema strenuously denies any wrongdoing and for the duration of Euro 2020 he will aim to show what France have been missing in his absence. They managed to win the 2018 World Cup without him, and reach the final of Euro 2016, yet coach Didier Deschamps has decided his team need Benzema's presence for the coming month.

It could be a masterstroke or could go disastrously wrong, with France a national team who have combusted before during a big tournament.

Benzema last year made the snippy remark that Olivier Giroud was a go-kart and he, by contrast, was a Formula One car, but now they are rivals for selection.

Squad harmony is vital at any major championship, and Benzema's presence brings that little extra frisson. This gamble could go either way. Watching him and France will be fascinating.

Marcus Rashford: Making his pitch for a better England

Manchester United striker Rashford has been a pandemic social justice warrior, emerging as an inspirational figure as he battled for school children to avoid food poverty.

There is so much to admire about the 23-year-old Mancunian, who has also faced – and faced down – appalling racism on social media.

It would take a cold, cruel heart to begrudge Rashford a major moment on the pitch now, and that could come with England over the coming weeks.

On the international scene since just before Euro 2016, Rashford is now fixtures-and-fittings within the Three Lions set-up, but he has still yet to score at a World Cup or European Championship.

Before June's pre-Euros friendlies he had 40 caps and 11 goals and will want to improve his so-so goals-to-games ratio, which is partly explained by the fact only 20 of those caps came as a starter.

Golden Boot winner Harry Kane carried so much of the scoring burden for England at the last World Cup, and sometimes it takes two. Rashford scored three times in Euro 2020 qualifying and is coming off a 21-goal campaign with United, scoring on average once every 197.76 minutes.

The man who is effecting positive change in the way many live their lives, influencing politicians and shaping a better future for millions, could now do his country a massive favour on the football field.

 

Scotland: They're back, thanks to Mourinho's former right-hand man

Few in the Scotland team are long enough in the teeth to remember the last time the Tartan Army descended on a major tournament.

It was 1998, with the Scots giving Brazil a major test in the opening game at the Stade de France. A draw followed against Norway followed the 2-1 loss to the Selecao, before a dismal defeat to Morocco meant the campaign ended in crushing disappointment.

Hopes have flickered and foundered in the decades since, but Steve Clarke, once an assistant boss to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, has led his team back to the big time.

With the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and Che Adams, they possess Premier League quality, and two games Hampden promise to be nourishing for the soul.

Scotland is an expectant nation. That tends to end in intense disappointment at major tournaments, but optimism abounds as the games approach, the June 18 clash with England at Wembley ringed in the diary.

Italy: Blue skies again for Azzurri

It felt absurd that Italy should be absent from the 2018 World Cup, but they failed the meritocracy test of qualification when losing a play-off to Sweden.

That meant they were absent from football's great global gathering for the first time since 1958, and coach Gian Piero Ventura was swiftly given the heave-ho.

Enter Roberto Mancini, the former Inter and Manchester City boss who has led a scorching revival of the Azzurri, a team who won all 10 of their qualifiers and headed into June on a 26-game unbeaten run.

Wales, Turkey and Switzerland are the group-stage opposition for Italy, and the Turkey game in Istanbul gets the tournament underway.

They are a team perhaps without a superstar, but as Paolo Rossi and Toto Schillaci would attest, iconic Italian figures can emerge on the big stage.

Joachim Low: Hit for six, Germany go back to the future

After 15 years, Low will step down as Germany head coach following these finals. Many in Germany think he should have stepped aside already, but Low has powerful support within the DFB, the national federation.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November felt like an appalling nadir, with Germany outshot 23-2 in Seville and having just 30 per cent of possession.

Something had to change and it has, with Low summoning Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels out of the international exile he harshly imposed on the experienced pair over two years ago.

Low felt he could do without their talents but it proved a major misstep, and for Germany's sake they are back. What Low does next remains to be seen, but a strong Euro 2020 campaign with Germany would bolster his chances of landing any elite club job.

The 61-year-old was a World Cup winner seven years ago, but the most immediately telling part of his legacy will be written during this European summer.

Karim Benzema expressed pride to have ended his near six-year exile from the France national side in Wednesday's friendly with 10-man Wales, but admitted there is room for improvement after missing a penalty in the 3-0 win.

The 33-year-old failed to convert a first-half spot-kick at the Allianz Riviera and hit the post in the build-up to Ousmane Dembele's late strike after Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann had put France on course for a routine win.

That was Benzema's third penalty miss in a row for his national side, having also failed to convert against Switzerland and Sweden in 2014.

However, on what was Benzema's first appearance for the world champions in five years and 237 days, the Real Madrid striker is pleased with how things went overall.

"There is a lot of pride and joy after that," he told TF1. "I had a good feeling going into the match after a good week of work and training. It's all about gaining momentum.

"It's been a difficult season with lots of matches. I feel good and that bodes well for the future.

"A match can often be like this with missed chances. The main thing is to create them and learn to do better next time."

Benzema may have endured a largely frustrating game in Nice, but he showed promising link-up play with goalscorers Mbappe and Griezmann in a star-studded front three.

"We tried hard," he said. "It's not easy against teams that use five defenders and play with a low block. That is something we will have to work on in training.

"But overall it was a good match. We worked hard and that is the most important thing today."

Mbappe's breakthrough goal for France arrived seven minutes after Benzema's penalty miss, awarded for Neco Williams' handball in front of goal that also resulted in a red card for the Wales defender.

France looked comfortable from that point on, with Griezmann curling home a second goal early in the second period and substitute Dembele tapping in a third.

The front three of Griezmann, Benzema and Mbappe will be arguably the most feared at the upcoming Euro 2020 finals, and head coach Didier Deschamps is happy to give the trio "complete freedom" up top.

"Karim was unhappy not to score but he was always there," Deschamps told TF1. "A goal would have made both him happy, and me too, but there's no harm in keeping them for later.

"There is no fixed position for the three attackers. I give them complete freedom. Their profiles are complementary. 

"Obviously when the ball is lost they know what needs to be done – they cannot disconnect from the others.

France's victory was their 19th in 24 matches and they now take on Bulgaria in their final friendly fixture ahead of facing Germany, Hungary and Portugal in a daunting Euro 2020 group.

"There's lots of good things to take out of this game," Deschamps said after seeing his side keep a third clean sheet in a row for the first time since October 2017.

"Obviously Wales had one less player and that made our jobs easier. We had lots of chances and it's good to conclude our first week together with this win. On another day the win could have been bigger, but it's a good start."

Karim Benzema missed a penalty and hit the post on his return to the France side, but the hosts took advantage of Neco Williams' contentious red card to beat 10-man Wales 3-0 in Wednesday's friendly at the Allianz Riviera.

Real Madrid striker Benzema was making his first international appearance since October 2015 in a star-studded starting line-up that also included Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, who both found the net.

Mbappe opened the scoring from close range shortly after Benzema had his penalty saved by Danny Ward following Williams' handball – an infringement that also saw the Liverpool youngster sent off after a lengthy VAR check.

Fellow forward Griezmann doubled France's tally early in the second half and substitute Ousmane Dembele added a third as the world champions saw out the job in their penultimate match before beginning their Euro 2020 campaign.

Benzema had a glancing header well saved by Ward and the Wales goalkeeper was then equal to the returning striker's spot-kick with a little under half an hour played in Nice.

However, Wales were down to 10 men at that point as Williams was harshly sent off for deliberately handling the ball in front of goal when blocking Benzema's shot, coming after Ward had produced another stop to keep out Paul Pogba.

France made the most of the extra man seven minutes later as Mbappe got his boot to a loose ball first following Ward's low save to keep out Adrien Rabiot's deflected effort.

Griezmann gave the hosts some breathing space with a curled finish into the top-left corner with 47 minutes played after some nice link-up play with Mbappe.

Dan James was played in by substitute Aaron Ramsey and forced Hugo Lloris into a rare save, with that proving to be Wales' best chance of ending a run that now spans eight away friendly matches without scoring.

There was still time for France to add a third goal late on through Dembele's simple finish after Benzema's shot crashed back off the post and into his path.

Karim Benzema was included in France's starting line-up for Wednesday's friendly with Wales in Nice, ending the Real Madrid striker's near six-year absence from the side.

The 33-year-old's most recent appearance for Les Blues came in October 2015 when scoring a brace against Armenia, taking his tally to 27 goals in 81 international appearances.

He then became embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena - Benzema has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October - and was subsequently overlooked by Didier Deschamps.

That was until last month, however, when Benzema was surprisingly recalled to the squad ahead of the Euro 2020 finals after holding face-to-face talks with Deschamps.

The prolific striker's recall comes on the back of a campaign in which he scored 30 goals for Madrid in all competitions, 23 of those in LaLiga – behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (30).

Some 68 months on from his last outing for France, Benzema was back involved on Wednesday in a star-studded front three alongside Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

The friendly at Allianz Riviera also marked a special occasion for Hugo Lloris, who was captaining his national side from the start of a game for the 100th time.

That is 46 more than any other player in Les Bleus history, with Deschamps next on the list.

Chelsea's Champions League-winning trio Kurt Zouma, N'Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud were not involved, while Thomas Lemar was also absent through injury.

Wales also named a strong line-up for their penultimate match before the European Championship finals get under way, with Gareth Bale captaining his side.

France captain Hugo Lloris says the return of Karim Benzema does not guarantee the world champions anything ahead of the 2020 European Championship.

Les Bleus take on Wales in a friendly on Wednesday ahead of Euro 2020, where France have a tough group alongside Germany, Hungary and Portugal.

Real Madrid forward Benzema, 33, has been recalled to the France squad for the first time in almost six years.

The forward had been frozen out by France head coach Didier Deschamps since 2015 having been embroiled in a blackmail scandal over a sex tape.

Benzema has forged an outstanding club career in the meantime, netting 23, 21 and 21 league goals over the past three seasons in Spain and looms as a major addition for the 2018 World Cup winners.

"Karim's return does not change anything," Lloris said at the pre-game news conference prior to the Wales friendly in Nice. "His reinstatement went well, it happened naturally.

"There is a lot of respect, even more from the younger players. There is admiration for what he has done in his career at Real Madrid. We ignore what is said from the outside.

"We have the talent but matches are won on the pitch and not on paper. It will be necessary for us to be strong as a team."

France loom as one of the favourites for Euro 2020, along with England, Belgium, Germany, Spain and reigning champions Portugal.

Lloris added: "Karim never gave up, he gave himself the chance to come back, and his presence adds talent to this generation, but there are no guarantees of success.

"It is up to us to create the conditions for a positive dynamic, to create an energy to enter this competition well and to stay there as long as possible, while remaining solid when it is more complicated."

Deschamps is expected to unleash Benzema alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against the Dragons in a star-studded front line.

"Our performance will also depend on what everyone brings," Deschamps said.

"The midfielders, the full backs. I don't want to dissociate the three forwards from the rest of the team."

Carlo Ancelotti is back in charge of Real Madrid and has plenty on his plate after succeeding Zinedine Zidane.

The Italian called time on an 18-month stay at Everton in order to return to the club where he won the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup in a spell between 2013 and 2015.

However, Ancelotti inherits a Real squad with plenty of question marks over it.

The Spanish giants have just endured their first trophyless season since 2009-10 and so there is plenty for the 61-year-old to consider as he starts his second stint.

Sergio Ramos' future

Ancelotti joins a Madrid side who are on the cusp of losing captain Sergio Ramos for nothing. The Spaniard has long been in talks over a new deal but, with his current contract days from expiry, no breakthrough seems imminent.

Although his last season was hampered by injury that has cost him a place at Euro 2020 with Spain, Ramos still proved his worth time and time again.

Looking at his performances in LaLiga, the 35-year-old posted better statistics in tackle success rate (80 per cent) and tackles won per 90 minutes (0.85) than any of his fellow Real centre-halves.

He was also dribbled past fewer times per 90 minutes (0.28) than Raphael Varane (0.3), Eder Militao (0.48) and Nacho (1.03).

These statistics could well be enough to convince Ancelotti to keep him around.

Does Hazard have a role?

With 21 appearances, four goals, and further injury issues all Eden Hazard has to show for last season, it has been suggested a departure could be the best outcome for all parties.

But Ancelotti will no doubt be tempted to try and get the best out of the Belgian as he looks to fix an attack that needs to offer a wider threat.

Karim Benzema remains from the Italian's first stint, but no other Madrid player got close to the French striker's 23 goals in LaLiga last term, with Casemiro (6), Marco Asensio and Luka Modric (both 5) next best.

Hazard could be key to bridging that gap if he can stay fit for long enough periods.

What next for returning loanees?

One man who could help on the goal front is Gareth Bale, who scored 11 times in 20 Premier League appearances for Tottenham during a season-long loan stay in 2020-21.

The Welshman first joined Real under Ancelotti in the summer of 2013 and could be more open to staying put with a manager who has faith in him after becoming frustrated under Zidane.

It remains to be seen what happens with Martin Odegaard, who will return from a loan spell at Arsenal where he impressed but perhaps not to the degree necessary to earn a starting place in Madrid.

The futures of Luka Jovic and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain as they return from Eintracht Frankfurt and Milan respectively.

One big sale?

With Real feeling the pinch of a season without supporters, it is likely that the new manager will have to generate his own funds in the transfer market.

And, with moving on fringe players likely to be tricky, the possibility of selling a more in-demand asset increases.

Raphael Varane is one possible contender as he heads into the final year of his contract amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester United.

The Frenchman established himself as a regular starter in Ancelotti's second season and has missed just 68 of the 266 league games played since that point.

Real conceded an average of 1.1 goal per game without Varane across the past seven seasons, and 0.9 in the fixtures in which he featured.

Interestingly, though, their win percentage rose to 73.5 per cent without him in the side from 66.2 per cent with - will these statistics inform the manager's decision?

One big signing?

Money may be tight at Real Madrid, but that won't stop them being linked to the biggest names in world football.

Kylian Mbappe is one of them, the Frenchman having enjoyed another remarkable season in which he scored more goals (21) and landed more shots on target (55) than anyone else in Ligue 1.

The 22-year-old also converted 60.5 per cent of his big chances - a rate that would help ease Real's problems with lack of goals outside of Benzema.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Ancelotti can pull together the funds to start off his reign with such a high-profile signing.

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