Benzema back on song in time for Swiss showdown
Karim Benzema will hope to build upon a return to the international scoresheet when France take on Switzerland in the last 16 of Euro 2020.
Benzema netted both his team's goals in 2-2 draw with Portugal that secured top spot in Group F for Les Bleus last time out – his first since the end of an exile from the national team that began in 2015.
In his only previous appearance against Switzerland at the 2014 World Cup, the 33-year-old Real Madrid forward scored twice and supplied an assist in a resounding 5-2 win.
Indeed, this will be the fifth meeting between the teams at a major tournament and France are unbeaten in the previous four, with their most recent encounter at Euro 2016 finishing goalless.
If the identity of a France front three featuring Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe feels fairly settled, Didier Deschamps' starting formation has become a matter for debate.
A report by L'Equipe du Soir claimed a number of players have asked the coaching staff to revert to a 3-4-3 system
Jules Kounde started at right-back against Portugal but is a doubt for Monday's game in Bucharest with a hamstring problem and, while Lucas Hernandez is back in training after a knee complaint forced him off at half-time in the previous match, Lucas Digne (thigh) is out, meaning Deschamps has plenty to ponder whether operating with a back three or a back four.
"They’re a well-structured team and they have good attacking potential with [Haris] Seferovic, [Breel] Embolo and [Xherdan] Shaqiri," the World Cup-winning coach said of Switzerland.
"We must not underestimate them and it's a knockout game so we’ll have to do everything we can to ensure we have smiles on our faces at the end of the match."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
France – Kylian Mbappe
While Benzema is now off and running for the tournament and Griezmann netted the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Hungary, Mbappe is yet to get off the mark – a state of affairs that surely cannot continue much longer for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar. Mbappe has no goals from eight shots in the tournament with a combined expected goals (xG) value of 1.3.
Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri
One man who had no problem in front of goal during the final round of group stage matches was Liverpool attacker Shaqiri, upon whom Switzerland will again pin plenty of their hopes. His brace against Turkey made him Switzerland's all-time leading scorer in major tournaments with seven, overtaking Josef Hugi (six).
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Switzerland have reached the knockout stages at each of their past four major tournaments. They were eliminated in their first match following the group stages on each of those previous three instances.
- France have only lost one of their previous 17 matches at the Euros and World Cup combined (W12 D4) – the Euro 2016 final against Portugal.
- Switzerland will face the reigning world champions at a major tournament for the first time. Overall, they have won only three of their 20 matches against reigning world champions (D9 L8), with this their first such match since a 1-1 draw with Italy in June 2010.
- France progressed the ball upfield 18.7 metres per sequence on average during the group stages, the highest figure of any side, highlighting their ability to advance the ball after regaining possession.
- Griezmann has played in each of France's past 51 matches, a run that started on August 31, 2017 against the Netherlands. The Barcelona forward is the only player to make 50+ appearances for a European country since that date.