BUDAPEST: After almost six years of waiting for an international goal, Karim Benzema could meet again on Monday.

France face Switzerland in the round of 16 and the striker could enjoy this fight for several reasons.

Benzema could play more freely after scoring both goals in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal, which took a tremendous burden off his back. It was his first goals for Les Bleus since October 2015.

“Everyone has been waiting for this,” said the Real Madrid striker. “The pressure is different than when you play for your club.”

He could also be confident because he had his best performance so far for France against the Swiss in a 5-2 win at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He scored with an opportunistic finish, setting up a goal for Moussa Sissoko, and a great curling goal was not recognized because it crossed the line shortly after referee Bjorn Kuipers’ final whistle.

The following year, Benzema’s international career was in free fall following an argument with Deschamps over the player’s involvement in a “sextape” scandal.

It cost Benzema a place at Euro 2016, where France lost to Portugal in the final.

Then, on his television, he watched France win the 2018 World Cup.

A change of heart by Deschamps meant that Benzema was surprisingly recalled shortly before Euro 2020 and was in top form after a frustrating performance against Hungary against Portugal last Saturday.

“These goals were important for Karim,” said Deschamps. “But he never stopped believing in himself and I never stopped believing in him.”

Benzema’s record of 29 goals in 86 internationals seems a bit low for a player with such a technical talent.

But there is more to his game than just goals. He’s a selfless striker who makes room for others, a mix of finisher, playmaker and provider.

Former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo is Real’s all-time scorer with 450 goals and praised Benzema’s role in achieving that in their nine years together.

Their bond was evident when they left the field on Wednesday with their arms wrapped around them.

Benzema has evolved into Juventus since Ronaldo in 2018.

With 279 goals he has moved up to fifth place overall on the Real scorers list and is fourth in the Champions League with 71.

Now is the time for 33-year-old Benzema to help France score more goals at Euro 2020. – AP