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It wouldn't be a major international tournament without controversies inside the France camp and axed striker Karim Benzema has hit out at manager Didier Deschamps for bowing to "the pressure of a racist part of France".
Despite hitting 28 goals in 26 matches for Real Madrid, this season, Benzema has for the second time in his career been omitted from the national team ahead of a major tournament. Many fans have blamed his involvement in the sex tape/blackmail scandal involving teammate Mathieu Valbuena for costing the former Lyon man his place at this Summer's European Championships, yet both Benzema and Eric Cantona have suggested race is actually the cause of the three time French Player Of The Year's axing from Deschamps' Euro 2016 squad.
Last week Cantona claimed that the France manager had possibly refused to pick Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa due to their African heritages, saying in an interview with The Guardian:
"Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America.One thing is for sure - Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open."
Benzema, meanwhile, doesn't explicitly call Deschamps racist, but believes he has cowered in the face of the rise of extremist politics in France. Speaking to Marca, Benzema said:
"He has bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France. He has to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections. I do not know, therefore, whether it is a decision only for Didier because I've gotten along with him, with the president, everyone."
Anthony Martial, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and André-Pierre Gignac are the forwards who have been preferred to Benzema for the Euros. It'll be interesting to see how Deschamps' selections fare during the tournament in France and whether the omissions of Benzema and Ben Arfa come back to haunt him.
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