Benzema on the mark as France beat 10-man Brazil

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Laurent Blanc’s regeneration of the French national team continued apace on on Wednesday as his side defeated 10-man Brazil 1-0 in a friendly match at the Stade de France.

Karim Benzema capped a fine performance by claiming the game’s only goal in the 54th minute, having earlier been on the receiving end of a shocking high challenge by Hernanes that saw the Brazil midfielder sent off.

“The fact we played with 11 against 10 obviously made it easier for us, but I liked what I saw in terms of the content of the match,” said Blanc.

“We didn’t pull off everything that we tried but we managed to compete with Brazil in terms of the circulation of the ball and possession.

“We have to be happy with the content of the match. There were lots of positives.”

Victory extended France’s winning streak to five games since their shock loss at home to Belarus in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier in September.

It also enabled Les Bleus to prolong their unbeaten run against Brazil to six matches, since a 2-0 defeat in a friendly at the Parc des Princes in 1992.

For Brazil coach Mano Menezes, rebuilding – like Blanc – after a disappointing World Cup campaign, it was a second consecutive defeat after November’s 1-0 loss to arch-rivals Argentina.

“After Benzema’s first chance, we got into position well,” said Menezes.

“We won lots of tackles and we got forwards quickly and easily. Unfortunately in the second half we had to sacrifice ourselves.”

The game’s first clear sight of goal fell to France, with Benzema shooting across goal and wide from Yoann Gourcuff’s instinctive, flicked through-ball.

Brazil’s pressing made it difficult for France to play the ball out from the back, however, and the hosts soon found themselves on the back foot.

AC Milan team-mates Robinho and Alexandre Pato were the chief tormentors, exploiting the space between France right-back Bacary Sagna and his nearest defensive colleague, Adil Rami.

Pato curled a right-foot shot narrowly over the bar from the left-hand edge of the penalty area in the 13th minute and Robinho lashed over from a similar position later in the half.

Hernanes interrupted the visitors’ rhythm in brutal fashion five minutes shy of half-time.

Benzema warmed the crowd by skilfully lifting the ball over an opponent but when he tried the trick on Hernanes, the Lazio man responded with a clumsy kick straight to Benzema’s chest.

German referee Wolfgang Stark instantly produced a red card and France were able to take the upper hand.

Benzema saw a half-volley blocked at close range by Thiago Silva early in the second half before Gourcuff tested Julio Cesar’s handling with a low drive.

The breakthrough arrived shortly after, Jeremy Menez jinking into space behind the Brazilian defence on the French right flank and squaring the ball for Benzema to tap home from three yards.

Julio Cesar twice prevented Benzema from making it 2-0 in the moments that followed, parrying a diving header and then pushing away a low strike from the out-of-favour Real Madrid striker as France attacked with vigour.

Benzema also saw a mis-hit cross drift just wide of the right-hand post and later slipped as he shot after cleverly creating space inside the box.

The 23-year-old looked a different player to the uncertain figure occasionally glimpsed on the playing fields of the Spanish top flight and he received a rousing ovation when he was substituted with five minutes to play.

Substitute Loic Remy nearly extended France’s lead in injury time, but he shot just wide of goal after powering into the box from the right.

Results of international friendly matches:

Spain 1 Colombia 0
Turkey 0 South Korea 0
Croatia 4 Czech Republic 2
Belarus 1 Kazakhstan 1
Armenia 1 Georgia 2

Moldova 2 Andorra 1
Greece 1 Canada 0
Russia 0 Iran 1
Latvia 2 Bolivia 1
Azerbaijan 0 Hungary 2
Macedonia 0 Cameroon 1

Bulgaria 2 Estonia 2
Israel 0 Serbia 2
Denmark 1 England 2
Luxembourg 2 Slovakia 1
Albania 1 Slovenia 2
Belgium 1 Finland 1

Holland 3 Austria 1
Germany 1 Italy 1
France 1 Brazil 0
Poland 1 Norway 0
Portugal 1 Argentina 2

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