By Gregory Blachier

PARIS (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps is hoping forward Karim Benzema can rediscover his scoring touch and end a year-long international goal drought as they look to guarantee at least a World Cup qualifying playoff spot.

Second-placed France are aiming to grab the six points that would secure a top two finish in Group I, which world champions Spain lead by a point, when they visit Georgia on Friday and Belarus four days later.

The group winners automatically qualify for next year's finals in Brazil with the eight best runners-up from the nine sections going into a playoff round.

Worryingly for 1998 World Cup winners France, they have not scored in their last four games and Benzema has taken the brunt of the blame.

The 26-year-old forward, who has been ordered to work harder by his Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, appears to have lost all confidence in front of goal as was evident when he wasted two chances in the 0-0 friendly draw against Belgium last month.

Despite his failings, Deschamps continued to back his first choice striker.

"I know that it's been an issue because of his lack of efficiency in front of goal. I hope that it (the drought) will end as soon as possible, for the team and for him too," Deschamps told a news conference at France's training facility near Paris.

"Karim is eager to score, I am too, his team mates too... everybody hopes he'll find the net again."

Arsenal centre back Laurent Koscielny, whose in-form club team mate Olivier Giroud could usurp Benzema in the France lineup, said the squad still had faith in the Real Madrid striker.

"He's been through difficult times but the squad is behind him. We trust him. He has shown in the past that he could be a great goalscorer, all he needs is to regain confidence," Koscielny said.

"He has played great matches with Real, he has created goals. We support him, we encourage him during training to help him score a lot of goals and we know it will come for him."

If Giroud lines up with Benzema in attack, it could ease the pressure on him and Deschamps has not dismissed the idea.

"It's a possibility. I've already done it and not necessarily with both up front. It could be an option at the start or during a match," he said.

(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

 

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