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Cristiano Roanldo and Karim Benzema provided what will almost certainly prove to be one of the most abiding memories of Euro 2020 following their emotional reunion in Budapest last night.
Two of European football’s modern legends rolled back the years during an enthralling 2-2 draw which ensured France progressed as Group F winners and reigning European champions Portugal qualified by the skin of their teeth.
It was a record-breaking night for Ronaldo, who scored twice from the penalty spot, including a decisive equaliser, to take his international tally to an astonishing 109 goals and, in the process, draw level at the top of the all-time charts with Iran’s Ali Daei.
Not to be outdone, it was a significant occasion for Benzema too, with Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate notching his first goals for his country since his six-year international exile came to an end.
The pair were spotted ahead of kick-off smirking at each other in scenes reminiscent of Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski lining up against one another following the Poland international’s controversial move from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich back in 2013.
Ronaldo and Benzema were also seen chatting on the way to the tunnel at half-time, before somewhat prematurely swapping shirts.
Asked what was said between the pair, Benzema told reporters after the game: ‘It’s nice to see him again, we have come a long way together.
‘We both played eight or nine years at Real Madrid, we scored goals, won trophies. We spoke, we wished each other good luck for the future with our clubs and in the tournament and especially to continue to have fun on the field and continue to make the difference.’
The decision to reintroduce Benzema to the fold was a controversial one, particularly given his acrimonious relationship with Olivier Giroud, but France manager Didier Deschamps claimed last night’s brace has already vindicated his call.
He said: ‘I knew as soon as I would be in the national team, the critics would come out – that is part of the football game but I never give up.
‘As soon as I put my feet on the pitch I want to score and today I managed to do that. But I am training a lot. It was always like that, even when I was a little kid.
‘Today everyone was waiting for this goal and that was some kind of extra motivation for me. Of course there is another pressure than when you play for your club because it is your whole country but for me it is a great pleasure.’
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Source: Metro Sport