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WORLD CUP WARM-UP

WORLD CUP

Benzema scores twice in France-Jamaica friendly

Karim Benzema hit two spectacular goals as France romped to an 8-0 victory over Jamaica in a bid to ease the blow of losing star striker Franck Ribéry for the World Cup.

Benzema scores twice in France-Jamaica friendly
France's forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the friendly football match between France and Jamaica. Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Blaise Matuidi and Antoine Griezmann also scored twice in France's final World Cup warm-up game before 49,000 fans in Lille.

While Jamaica barely put up any serious opposition, the result was a welcome boost for Didier Deschamps' team two days after being rocked by Ribéry's withdrawal with a back injury.

"Ribéry is a loss, but we have to stop talking about it and get on without him," said Paris St Germain's Matuidi, who scored his first brace for France.

Coach Deschamps insisted that France remained united even without star Bayern Munich striker Ribery, who said that leaving the squad was like "a death in my soul."

"We have lost a world class player," said Deschamps. "The French team is stronger with him when he is at 100%, but there are other players. They form a collective."

"A victory was what we needed before leaving. It gives us confidence," added Real Madrid's Benzema. "Everyone is happy. We showed a lot of good things."

Benzema and Matuidi scored a goal in each half of the festive farewell to their French fans before heading to Brazil on Monday. France play their first World Cup Group E game next Sunday against Honduras, who held England 0-0 on Saturday.

Benzema's first goal was a curling shot from the corner of the penalty area. The second was another shot from the edge of the area past hapless Jamaica goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett.

Benzema also hit the post and made a goal for Matuidi and Arsenal's Olivier Giroud.

Griezmann, a rival to Giroud for Ribery's place, came on as a second half substitute and scored twice in 12 minutes. Yohan Cabaye opened the score in the 17th minute.

France are now unbeaten in five games and looked strong.

"We know that it is going to be a different kind of match next Sunday, but it was good to finish like that. It gives us confidence," said Matuidi.

For Deschamps, the match was a last opportunity to try Benzema, roaming more freely, with Giroud up front in place of Ribéry.

"I wanted to see them together again, but it is not just about them," said Deschamps. It was also important to see how the pair worked with France's midfield, he added. But Deschamps acknowledged that Benzema and Giroud look in "excellent physical condition."

Giroud clearly feels that he will be first choice to link up with Benzema in the Brazil campaign. "I am going to be playing in my first World Cup — and in Brazil," he said. "I am like a kid at Christmas."

The only worry for France was left back Mathieu Debuchy's exit at half-time. "It was a blow to the back of the thigh. He struggled to finished the first half," said the coach. "I didn't want to take any risks. There is no real worry."

Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin, called into the squad after injuries to Ribéry and midfielder Clement Grenier, came on for the final three minutes to gain his first cap.

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FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

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