French striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup after injuring his left thigh during training in Doha on Saturday, the French federation has confirmed.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner felt severe pain in his thigh during a sprint towards the end of the training session.
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After undergoing an MRI, it was confirmed that Benzema suffered a torn muscle that would require three weeks of recovery time.
The 2022 World Cup, which begins on Sunday and ends in the final on December 18, will now be the first since 1978 not to feature the reigning Ballon d’Or winner.
France begin the defense of the World Cup title they won in 2018 by facing Australia on Tuesday. According to FIFA rules, they will have until 24 hours before their first match to name a replacement for their squad.
Other French strikers in their squad include 2018 star Kylian Mbappe as well as Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembele.
“I am extremely sad for Karim, who made this World Cup a major goal,” coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us.”
Benzema also opened up about his withdrawal in an Instagram post.
“I never gave up in my life but tonight I have to think about the team, as I always have,” he said. “So reason tells me to give my place to someone who can help our team have a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”
France’s preparations in Qatar had already been hit by the injury withdrawals of RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku and Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani and Monaco’s Axel Disasi have been named as substitutes.
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Benzema was France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup but did not feature in their 2018 World Cup-winning campaign as he was still exiled from the team for his alleged role in a sex scandal. tape with his teammate at the time Mathieu Valbuena.
Deschamps recalled him for last year’s European Championship, where he was France’s top scorer with four goals.
The 34-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career with Real Madrid last campaign, finishing top scorer in La Liga (27 goals) and Champions League (15 goals) to lead the Spanish giants to both major trophies.
However, he struggled with injuries throughout the first part of this season.
He had only played 26 minutes of football last month due to muscle fatigue, and Saturday was the first time he had trained with the France team since they met on Monday.
Deschamps was optimistic his striker could recover in time, but Saturday’s injury has now ruled him out of the tournament.
Even before naming his team, the France coach was without long-term absentees Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – two key players when Blues won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.