Benzema scandal shadows France's Euro hopes

Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena (AFP)
Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena (AFP)

Paris - The sex-tape blackmail scandal in which Karim Benzema has become mired has cast a shadow over France's preparations for the European Championship that they will host next summer.

The announcement by French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet on Thursday that Real Madrid striker Benzema was suspended indefinitely from the France set-up has left national coach Didier Deschamps to focus on other options in attack in the build-up to the opening game on June 10.

Benzema is the leading scorer among all current France internationals with 27 goals from 81 caps but he has been charged with complicity to blackmail his teammate Mathieu Valbuena in relation to a sex-tape.

He runs the risk of a five-year prison sentence and has been ordered not to have contact with Valbuena, so it was no surprise when Le Graet declared that the 27-year-old was suspended until the case is settled.

Le Graet called the decision "heartbreaking", and the chances of the case being resolved before the Euros appear slim, even if Benzema himself has expressed hope in public.

"The Euros are a big deal and I dream of playing in them, like many players. And it's in France, so that's even better," he said in an interview.

"I'm not worried and hope this is all sorted out soon so I can play."

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