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EURO 2012: Benzema at the double for France

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LE MANS, France, June 5 – France thanked a brace from Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema as they thumped Estonia 4-0 in an impressive Euro 2012 tune-up to give Group D rivals England food for thought.

Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery set the ball rolling in the northern town of Le Mans with the opener on 24 minutes before Benzema made it 2-0 eight minutes before the break as the French found their form.

Benzema added another just two minutes after the restart before Paris Saint Germain forward Jeremy Menez made it four in stoppage time.

On the negative side for Laurent Blanc’s men a central defensive partnership of Philippe Mexes of AC Milan and Valencia’s Adil Rami had a few nervous moments but that failed to take the gloss off a morale-boosting win and, as a former stopper himself, Blanc should be capable of passing on some tips to his backline.

The coach said he was satisfied overall.

“It’s three wins in three and so we can be satisfied. In some areas less so but overall it was a good evening,” said Blanc, ho noted even so that “sometimes we put ourselves in difficulty” at the back.

He forecast that against England “it will be more difficult, a more rigorous test and we will have to play it in simpler fashion.”

Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye was a driving force in midfield while Ribery bagged his third goal in as many outings after Benzema neatly set him up before bagging his own 14th and 15th goals for his country – the first a fine curling individual effort and the second laid on by Ribery.

Menez bundled in his late goal after coming on as substitute for Benzema along with Olivier Giroud, who replaced Florent Malouda.

France have now gone 21 games unbeaten and the memories of a disastrous 2010 World Cup are finally beginning to fade away.

They meet England next Monday as they open up their programme before further pool meetings with co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden and Blanc says they are showing signs of forming a dangerous unit.

On Benzema and Ribery’s linking up well together on Tuesday’s evidence he told reporters: “Ribery and Benzema have enormous potential and they have shown that with their clubs – though they still have to fulfil it with France.

“Collectively, we are moving forward (but) the moment of truth comes on June 11,” he concluded.

Turkey upset Ukraine in final warm-up match

The 2012 European championship’s co-hosts Ukraine slumped to a 2-0 loss to Turkey in their last warm-up match ahead of the European Championships at Ingolstadt in Germany on Tuesday.

Fenerbahce midfielder Erkin Caner and Besiktas forward Mustafa Pektemek scored one apiece for Turkey to upset Ukraine with just a week remaining before their opening encounter at Euro-2012.

Turkey, the Euro-2008 semi-finalists, roared on by locally-based support, looked more focused from the start, while Ukraine, who fielded an experimental line-up, sat back in defence, relying on counter attacks.

In the 28th minute Turkey went into the lead through Caner, who received a precise left-wing cross from Pektemek just into the area and slotted the ball into the net past Ukrainian ‘keeper Andrei Pyatov.

Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitsky had a chance to level two minutes before the break but his 11-metre header from Alexander Aliev’s well-struck freekick was saved athletically by Fenerbahce goalie Mert Gunok.

After the interval Ukraine’s manager Oleg Blokhin brought on veteran forward Andriy Shevchenko in an attempt to boost his team’s attacking prowess but the Turks still dominated play and kept Ukraine defence under pressure.

In the 70th minute Pektemek made it 2-0 for Turkey, firing in from close range following Tunai Torun’s cross from the right to clinch the win.

In the closing stages Shevchenko missed a clear scoring opportunity as his close-range shot rebounded off the crossbar with five minutes to go.

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