Karim Benzema helps Real Madrid win Copa del Rey


Home to the reigning FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Cup champions, it can be argued that Spain is the soccer capital of the world right now. (Although Brazil can make a good case with their perennially spectacular national teams and the fact that they’re hosting this year’s World Cup.) That said, the Copa del Rey — which pits the best pro teams in Spain against each other and has been played every year since 1903 — can arguably be called the top national soccer tournament in the world right now.

Real Madrid claimed the Copa del Rey crown on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over rival Barcelona, with an assist from 26-year-old French striker Karim Benzema, a practicing Muslim.

Welsh superstar Gareth Bale was the man of the match after scoring the tiebreaking goal in the 85th minute for Madrid — who played without Portugese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo — but Benzema was a key contributor. He helped set up Angel Di Maria’s goal in the 11th minute that gave Madrid its first lead. In the second half, Benzema had a couple of decent looks at goals, but one was deflected and another hit the post.

Before Wednesday’s final, Benzema scored goals in earlier Copa del Rey matches against Osasuna and Espanyol.

Also sharing in Madrid’s victory was assistant coach Zinedine Zidane, the once controversial and now retired French star of Algerian descent who has described himself as a “non-practicing Muslim” in interviews.

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