Eight years after eliminating Eagles at Brazil 2014, Benzema’s magic still reigns
On a warm evening in the city of Brasilia, the Super Eagles appeared a better side in their second-round tie against France, firing from all cylinders.
Although history was against the Coach Stephen Keshi-led Eagles, having never gone been beyond the second round stage at a World Cup, with the chanting from the flags-and-banner-waving members of the Nigerian Supporters Club, as well as the locals, the Eagles were able to put up a show reminiscent of a team capable of turning the table against the Les Blues. It only lasted for a few minutes as France suddenly rediscovered their attacking verve through Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. The Nigerian defence succumbed.
A Paul Pogba simple 79th-minute header, and an own goal by team captain, Joseph Yobo, after Griezmann missed his kick at stoppage-time, ended Nigeria’s journey to Brazil in 2014.
In his post-match chat with The Guardian at the Brasilia stadium, Benzema said then that his best was yet to come.
True to his declaration, and eight years on, all Super Eagles players to the World Cup in Brazil, except Kenneth Omeruo and Ogeyi Onazi, have retired from active play, but Benzema is still active, turning in magical goals for his club and country at every turn.
On Wednesday night, the Real Madrid striker made history by becoming the first player to ever score a European hat-trick against Chelsea.
The French international already had one hattrick to his name in this season’s UEFA Champions League, helping Los Blancos come from behind to eliminate star-studded Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16. This time, it took Benzema just 46 minutes to hit a treble.
Two first-half headers had put Carlo Ancelotti’s side ahead, with Kai Havertz halving the deficit before half-time. And just moments after the restart, Benzema capitalised on an Edouard Mendy error to get his third of the night and bring his tally for the season up to a phenomenal 37 goals in just 36 appearances in all competitions.
Benzema’s magic has become a major talking point for football fans across the globe.
In addition to the hat-trick achievement, Benzema set another record on the night.
According to Opta, Benzema’s efforts made him the first French player to ever hit double-figures in a Champions League season.
He scored five times in the group stage – including a double in a win over Shakhtar Donetsk – and three in the last-16 clash, with three more in London taking him up to 11.
France under-21 international, Sebastien Haller, also has 11 goals in this season’s competition, but he switched his international allegiance to Cote d’Ivoire in 2020.
Only one Frenchman hit double-figures in the competition’s previous incarnation, the European Cup. That was Just Fontaine, who scored 10 times for Reims in the 1958-59 season. But Benzema surpassed that tally with his third goal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.