October 11, 2021

Karim Benzema’s dipping and curling beauty against Spain helped France to another piece of silverware in Didier Deschamps’ trophy-laden time in charge.

Yes, Les Bleus may not always be the prettiest on the eye, but they’re a formidable team, and now may well have the best forward in world football in their ranks too. That and more in today’s Warm-Up

World football is awash with outstanding centre-forwards right now. Robert Lewandowski, the 2021 version of Cristiano Ronaldo, Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku.

But there is a strong case for saying that right now it’s Karim Benzema who’s the best of the lot.The 33-year-old Frenchman is top of both the goalscoring and assist charts after eight rounds of La Liga, playing arguably the best football of his extraordinary career.

And now he’s lighting it up for the France national team too.Benzema’s brilliant equaliser in the Nations League final lit the touchpaper for his French side, and was a reminder of the outstanding quality he brings to a team who should be favourites to win the World Cup in a little over a year’s time.

The Real Madrid man has always been an amazing link-player, bringing the best out of the forward player around him.But now he is adding the personal numbers to that selfless style of play. He’s an exceptional player, and seems to be getting better and better with age.


The 2022 World Cup is a little over a year away and if we’ve just been given an indication of what’s to come then everyone should be very excited.Hosting the World Cup in December in Qatar has its flaws, its many flaws.

But one thing that it should mean is a much higher standard of football.Coming into this autumn-winter spell of the European football season, players are absolutely flying, fitness levels are high, and most are playing close to their peak.J

ust look at the quality of some of the football on show in the international fixtures so far during this window, no less than in the Nations League.

Paul Pogba of France celebrates during the UEFA Nations League 2021 Semi-final match between Belgium and France at Juventus Stadium on October 07, 2021 in Turin, Italy

Belgium 2-3 France was an absurdly high-standard game, played at the sort of tempo that is rarely, if ever, seen at a summer World Cup, when many of the game’s brightest talents are fatigued after a long club season.Now add in the temperatures, which in Qatar in December are typically around mid-20°C.

Perfect playing conditions.And now factor in that there are some outstanding teams building to a crescendo right now:France are in the middle of an all-time great dynasty, Belgium, Brazil and Portugal are absolutely littered with world-class talent, England are an highly-impressive outfit right now, and Italy showed in the Euros how much quality they can bring.And then of course there’s the added cherry-on-top that it’s probably Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s last ever appearances at a World Cup, with them still playing excellent football at club level.The tournament might be a year away still, but it’s almost time to start getting excited.


England are back in international action tomorrow against Hungary, where no doubt we’ll be treated to another Gareth Southgate masterclass behind the microphone.

For what the Three Lions’ manager may lack in tactical adventurousness, he more than makes up for in diplomacy.Some of Southgate’s answers to the biggest moral, ethical and political questions of the day are significantly more coherent and considered than anything heard at a political conference in Manchester last week. Not that that’s particularly hard, in truth.

This is a man who clearly wants everyone who can to receive the vaccine. But who knows that the vast majority of the squad that he managers have not had both of their jabs.

And so he somehow straddles the line between saying how he feels about vaccinations and not upsetting his players.“I’m a believer that that’s the right thing to do but I understand that there were other topics we’ve talked about where everybody was aligned and we would all have a very clear view as a team. With this, it’s a little bit more nuanced.

“My belief is that the route out of the pandemic is a vaccination programme, I’m yet to hear anybody offer an alternative, and there’s not a lot more we can say than that really.”The Warm-Up may be frustrated by Southgate’s aversion to attacking substitutions, but we could listen to his views on societal issues every day of the week.