Posted March 17, 2013 on AP on Fox
Striker Karim Benzema insists he is not feeling the pressure ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain, despite not scoring in his past 10 games for France and regularly finding himself on the Real Madrid bench. Benzema was in good form last season for both club and country, but has not scored for France since his brace against Estonia last June in a warmup match before the European Championship. ''No, it doesn't weigh on me, of course I want to score but I can't start thinking `I must score, I must score' because it will affect my game,'' Benzema said Sunday on French television show Telefoot. ''Even if I don't score and we win, I will be happy. People don't look at the effort I make on the field. But the No. 1 striker must score goals and I hope they will come soon. We'll see after these two games.'' Benzema has scored 15 goals in 55 games for France, a modest return for a forward of his stature. ''I am criticized every time in France, but that is part of my status now and you have to accept it with a smile,'' he said. ''There are always difficult moments in a career, now I am coming back well and I feel really good.'' France coach Didier Deschamps has backed Benzema to come good, adding that France needs him back to his best against Georgia and reigning European and world champion Spain. After securing a 1-1 draw away to Spain, France is level on points at the top of Group I, and two wins will put France into top spot with only one team qualifying automatically for the 2014 World Cup. Benzema has struggled to hold down a regular place for Real Madrid this season, starting only 12 of 22 league games, and scoring eight goals. Last year, Benzema finished the season with 21 league goals, only to see his confidence dip at Euro 2012, where he had a poor tournament. ''It's a bit harder for him because he's playing a bit less and it's difficult to get into a rhythm when you're coming on at the end of games,'' Deschamps said. ''No one's irreplaceable, but I have enormous confidence in Karim with respect to his ability. He just needs that little spark to get going again. I think a goal would do him some good. ''He could be more efficient and he's looking to be. But he is doing other things in the game as well,'' Deschamps added. ''The longer it goes on and he doesn't score, people will mention his statistics. But I repeat: I have faith in him.'' Meanwhile, Deschamps is hopeful winger Franck Ribery will shake off an ankle ligament problem in time to play against Georgia. ''Franck wants to play, there's a problem with his ankle but it shouldn't prove to be a major problem,'' Deschamps said.
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