The long wait seems over for France for­ward Kevin Gameiro

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

It’s been a long wait for Kevin Gameiro.

But in the ab­sence of the in­jured Olivier Giroud and with Karim Ben­zema still out of the France squad, the Atletico Madrid for­ward will fi­nally get the op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish him­self for good in Di­dier Deschamps’ team.

Gameiro, who joined Atletico in the off­sea­son for a re­ported €30 mil­lion, is ex­pected to start along­side Madrid team­mate An­toine Griez­mann when France takes on Bulgaria to­day at the Stade de France in a World Cup qual­i­fier.

The Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship run­ners-up, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Be­larus in their Group A opener, will then travel to Am­s­ter­dam to play the Nether­lands three days later.

Griez­mann, the top scorer at Euro 2016, is Deschamps’ first choice, with Gameiro, An­drePierre Gignac, Anthony Mar­tial and Na­bil Fekir in com­pe­ti­tion to re­place Giroud.

The Ar­se­nal striker, who has not started a game this sea­son with his club, has been hin­dered by a toe in­jury while Ben­zema — who has not ap­peared for France since be­ing charged with black­mail over a sex-tape scan­dal — still has no place in the plans of Deschamps, at least on a short­term ba­sis.

The dou­ble ab­sence of Ben­zema and Giroud is likely to ben­e­fit the 29-year-old Gameiro, who has strong cre­den­tials for his in­clu­sion. His main as­set is the promis­ing re­la­tion­ship he has started to build with Griez­mann at Atletico. De­spite Fer­nando Tor­res’ com­pe­ti­tion that has been lim­it­ing his play­ing time, Gameiro has scored three goals and de­liv­ered as many as­sists in nine ap­pear­ances.

“In­di­vid­u­ally, both of them are qual­ity play­ers and the fact that they are play­ing to­gether with their club is a good thing,” Deschamps said. “They can im­prove their chem­istry.”

Gameiro started his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer six years ago and was reg­u­larly called by pre­vi­ous France coach Lau­rent Blanc, un­til a friendly game against the United States in Novem­ber 2011. The for­mer Sevilla player then had to wait nearly five years be­fore wear­ing the France jersey again.

Gameiro, who scored the equal­izer in the Europa League fi­nal as Sevilla came from be­hind to beat Liver­pool 3-1, some­times felt for­got­ten af­ter he left Paris Saint-Ger­main to move abroad. He was se­lected on a list of re­serve play­ers for the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship but did not make the fi­nal cut, and fi­nally re­ceived a proper call-up in Septem­ber, mak­ing his ninth in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance against Be­larus af­ter com­ing in as a sub­sti­tute.

“It was a very long wait. These things hap­pen dur­ing a ca­reer, but I never gave up,” Gameiro said. “Sevilla is a big club in Spain, but in France they don’t get much ex­po­sure. Sign­ing at Atletico Madrid put me one step above.”

Against a Bul­gar­ian team that con­ceded three goals in its 4-3 open­ing win over Lux­em­bourg, Deschamps will field an of­fen­sive-minded side, with Paul Pogba and Dim­itri Payet also ex­pected to start.

Gameiro started his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer six years ago un­til Novem­ber 2011 Photo: AP

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