History, which repeats itself but does not rhyme, brought Benzema and Mbappé together again before separating them for reasons of force majeure on the night of Saint-Denis, the recent scene of the Champions League final, because of the Fourteenth. The evening, which was dramatic, ended as games usually end every time these two figures meet in the same stadium: Mbappé goes unnoticed, Benzema dazzles, and France loses.
Lloris, Koundé (Moussa Diaby, min. 91), Lucas, Varane (William Saliba, min. 60), Aurelien Tchouameni, Kingsley Coman (Jonathan Clauss, min. 91), Theo Hernández, Kante, Benzema, Kylian Mbappe (Nkunku, min. 45) and Griezmann (Rabiot, min. 77)
Schmeichel, Joachim Andersen, Vestergaard (Rasmus Nissen Kristensen, min. 59), Victor Nelsson, Joakim Maehle, Hojbjerg, Delaney (Mathias Jensen, min. 84), Wass (Mikkel Damsgaard, min. 59), Andreas Skov Olsen (Braithwaite, min. 83), Kasper Dolberg (Cornelius, min. 59) and Eriksen
goals 1-0 min. 50: Benzema. 1-1 min. 67: Cornelius. 1-2 minutes 87: Cornelius.
Yellow cards Victor Nelsson (min. 71)
France disappointed as their two stars shone at the forefront of the attack. Stuck without football, Europe’s most promising team was subdued by dynamic Scandinavian players until the unthinkable happened: Kylian Mbappé put his hand to his left knee and called for a change. On the grass that a week ago consecrated Real Madrid as European champions, fate sent a dark signal for the boy from Bondy.
With the departure of the highest paid player in history, at the break, France began to play better and Denmark felt, at least, threatened. It was enough for Nkunku, the substitute, much more competent as Benzema’s assistant, who was enthusiastic and precise like few times in the national team shirt. Only better than accompanied by his friend from PSG, the madridista displayed his entire arsenal of driving, overflow and creativity in the first goal of the match. Probably the best goal of his season and the best he ever scored for France.
It was the 50th minute when Coman dropped back and passed the ball to him along the wing, in the far right position. Benzema paced his run with the touch and got away from Nelsson before combining with Nkunku in the penalty area. The Leipzig striker returned it with the spur and Benzema launched into a two-second, five-step dance, winning half a meter from Nelsson before outwitting Delaney, Andersen and Wass, then finishing by caressing the ball with his left foot towards Schmeichel’s impossible angle.
Tricolor flags fluttered in the hot Paris wind and screen-printed banners bearing the face of the bearded forward waved around the most populous curve. Standing up, the crowd at the Stade de France gave him the ovation of his life. The recognition that he was denied throughout the 13 games that have elapsed since his return to the national team, after remaining sidelined by his involvement (and conviction) of him in a case of blackmailing a teammate.
The night featured tired France players versus hyperactive Denmark players on matchday one of Group A of the Nations League. During the first half, the French resisted huddled around Kanté and were erratic each time they advanced, trying to divide with Koundé, obstinate in receiving on foot between the central defenders and the rival pivots, and almost always in the dark until Benzema did not appear embarked in solo companies. During the second half France advanced to go after the game and in the process they became disorganized in defense and only penetrated the rival lines with the heroic outburst of Benzema. As the match heated up, Christian Eriksen’s judgment prevailed. The reborn, recovered from the cardiac arrest that knocked him down a year ago, challenges his heart armed with a removable defibrillator. In his third game with Denmark after returning from his convalescence, Eriksen managed to illuminate the hard-working will of his teammates, generous for everything, especially to close and stand out.
It was in those instances, after the comeback, that the blond Andreas Cornelius, a 29-year-old striker for Trabzonspor in the Turkish Super League, appeared. He came off the bench in the second half and in several counterattack actions managed to break the offside position of the heavy French line before finishing off with one touch the 1-1 and three final 1-2.
Mbappé looked at him sitting on the bench in disbelief. Benzema could not hide his bitterness. On the night that he would consecrate him as an idol, the idol was a certain Cornelius, by profession an auctioneer in Trebizond.