Karim Benzema delights as France triumph in Nations League final - in pictures

French come from behind to beat Spain in dramatic tournament end - and then target 2022 World Cup

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Didier Deschamps heaped praise on Karim Benzema after the once-exiled forward played a key role in France's Nations League triumph.

Benzema scored France's equaliser in a 2-1 win over Spain which handed the world champions the trophy, and Deschamps was delighted with his striker.

"Karim is a crucial player and he has proved over two matches that he has very obvious talent, it's there for all to see," said the coach.

"He has improved in different areas, he's clinical, he plays his part in the build up."

Real Madrid forward Benzema had been banished from the national team for more than five years but was recalled by Deschamps ahead of Euro 2020.

He performed impressively in the Nations League final four in Italy, pulling a goal back with France two down in their 3-2 win over Belgium on Thursday and levelling the scores on Sunday night with a sumptuous curler just after Mikel Oyarzabal had put Spain ahead, before Kylian Mbappe netted the winner ten minutes from time.

"From a personal perspective he's no longer the same person, he's matured. He's been at the highest level for a long while now and I'm delighted he's able to celebrate tonight with France," added Deschamps.

"We are going to enjoy this trophy and then go get the World Cup (next year)," Benzema said.

While France came under pressure against a possession-obsessed Spain team, they did not panic and Benzema and Mbappe's clinical finishing made the difference.

Deschamps is clearly counting on Benzema to lead France's attack at the World Cup finals in Qatar next year.

"He is an important player for the future. Beyond his obvious talent, he has the character and the mental strength that are key at the highest level," he said after Les Bleus avoided defeat for the seventh time this year having conceded the opening goal.

"I'm very proud of my work for a long time. Coming back to this team and winning makes me happy, yes," said Benzema, who has now scored six goals for France since his return, with only Antoine Griezmann matching that tally.

"This title gives me even more ambition for the future with this team. Because this team has great potential."

France need one victory against either Kazakhstan at home or away to Finland next month to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Updated: October 11, 2021, 3:47 AM