Karim Benzema ruled out of World Cup with injury

French striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a left thigh injury during training in Doha on Saturday, the French federation has confirmed.

The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner felt a sharp pain in his thigh during a sprint at the end of the training session.

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After undergoing an MRI, it was confirmed that Benzema had suffered a muscle tear that would require three weeks of recovery time.

The 2022 World Cup, which starts on Sunday and goes to 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 when they face Australia on Tuesday. Under FIFA rules, they will have up to 24 hours before their first match to name a substitute for their squad.

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France’s other attacking options 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 had made this World Cup a major target,” coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Despite this new blow to the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to face the big challenge that awaits us”.

Benzema also addressed his retirement in a post on Instagram.

“I’ve never given 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 seat to someone who can help our team have a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”

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France’s preparations in Qatar had already been hit by the injury withdrawals of RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku and Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe.

Randal Kolo Muani of Eintracht Frankfurt and Axel Disasi of Monaco were named as substitutes.

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Benzema was France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup but did not play in their victorious 2018 World Cup campaign because he was still banned from the team for his alleged role in a sex tape scandal with teammate of the then French team 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 a career-best season with Real Madrid last season, finishing as the top scorer in La Liga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15 goals) to guide the Spanish giants to both major trophies.

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However, he has struggled with injuries during the first half of this season.

He had played just 26 minutes of football in the past month due to muscle fatigue, and Saturday was the first time he had trained with the France squad since they joined 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 squad, the France coach was without long-term injuries to Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, two key players when Les Bleus won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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