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Soccer-Deschamps could bench Benzema in Belarus

Reuters

Sept 9 (Reuters) - Striker Karim Benzema could be dropped for France's World Cup Group I qualifier in Belarus on Tuesday as coach Didier Deschamps seeks to end his team's five-match goal drought.

France, who trail leaders Spain by three points with two games remaining, have not scored in five consecutive matches for the first time ever while Benzema has failed to find the net in his last 15 appearances.

The Real Madrid striker wasted the only chance he got with a weak effort in Friday's goalless draw in Georgia and Deschamps refused to say if he would start him again in Belarus.

"You'll see tomorrow," he told a news conference in Gomel on Monday. "The players will know the starting team tomorrow."

Deschamps did confirm that Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba would replace Moussa Sissoko and Josuha Guilavogui in the midfield.

"If I included them in the squad, it was to make them play," Deschamps said about the pair, who were both suspended for last week's match in Tbilissi.

Pogba's passing skills could prove all the more important because Franck Ribery, France's best player in Georgia, is still in doubt because of a buttock injury.

"He will train on his own tonight. He has not completely recovered, he still feels pain, he still feels uncomfortable," Deschamps said about the UEFA Player of the year.

"We'll have to see how he will respond. We still have time tonight, even tomorrow if needed, to heal the injury. I'll take my decision tomorrow."

France will probably have to settle for a a second place finish in the group and secure their qualification for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil through the playoffs.

They host Finland next month for their final qualifier while Spain still have two home games to play against Georgia and Belarus.

(Writing by Gregory Blachier in Paris; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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