Karim Benzema missed a penalty and hit the post on his return to the France side, but the hosts took advantage of Neco Williams’ contentious red card to beat 10-man Wales 3-0 in Wednesday’s friendly at the Allianz Riviera.
Real Madrid striker Benzema was making his first international appearance since October 2015 in a star-studded starting line-up that also included Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, who both found the net.
Mbappe opened the scoring from close range shortly after Benzema had his penalty saved by Danny Ward following Williams’ handball – an infringement that also saw the Liverpool youngster sent off after a lengthy VAR check.
Fellow forward Griezmann doubled France’s tally early in the second half and substitute Ousmane Dembele added a third as the world champions saw out the job in their penultimate match before beginning their Euro 2020 campaign.
Benzema had a glancing header well saved by Ward and the Wales goalkeeper was then equal to the returning striker’s spot-kick with a little under half an hour played in Nice.
However, Wales were down to 10 men at that point as Williams was harshly sent off for deliberately handling the ball in front of goal when blocking Benzema’s shot, coming after Ward had produced another stop to keep out Paul Pogba.
France made the most of the extra man seven minutes later as Mbappe got his boot to a loose ball first following Ward’s low save to keep out Adrien Rabiot’s deflected effort.
Griezmann gave the hosts some breathing space with a curled finish into the top-left corner with 47 minutes played after some nice link-up play with Mbappe.
Dan James was played in by substitute Aaron Ramsey and forced Hugo Lloris into a rare save, with that proving to be Wales’ best chance of ending a run that now spans eight away friendly matches without scoring.
There was still time for France to add a third goal late on through Dembele’s simple finish after Benzema’s shot crashed back off the post and into his path.
What does it mean? France flex their muscles ahead of Euros opener
France are the favourites of many to go all the way at the European Championship finals, even if they are in a tough alongside Germany, Portugal and Hungary.
Deschamps has world-class players to choose from in every position, not least in attack, with Mbappe, Griezmann and Dembele all on target here and Benzema looking a threat throughout.
This was ultimately a non-contest from the moment Williams was dismissed, France comfortably going on to make it 19 wins in their last 24 matches against a Wales side who have work to do before the Euros begin next week.
Ward outshines Lloris
Lloris was captaining France for the 100th time from the start of a match, but the Tottenham goalkeeper was rarely troubled by Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates.
It was a far busier game for Ward at the opposite end, the Leicester City keeper making a number of top-class stops – including that impressive penalty save to thwart Benzema.
Benzema bailed out by fellow attackers
Benzema was playing his first match for France in five years and 237 days – the biggest gap between two games for the country since Roger Scotti between 1960 and 1956.
The Madrid striker’s penalty miss was his third in a row for his country – he also failed to convert against Switzerland and Sweden in 2014 – and the prolific striker also hit the post in the build-up to Dembele’s strike on what proved to be a frustrating day.
Key Opta facts
– France have won four of their last five matches against Wales (L1), with all these matches taking place in France.
– Since a 1-0 victory at Denmark back in November 2008, Wales have lost each of their last nine friendly matches as the away side, failing to score a single goal in any of the last eight.
– Gareth Bale has failed to score in any of his last nine starts for Wales.
France face Bulgaria in Paris next Tuesday in their final pre-Euro 2020 friendly, while Wales are at home to Albania on Saturday in front of 6,500 supporters.
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