France striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup after injuring his left thigh during training on Saturday in Doha, the French federation has confirmed.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner suffered a sharp pain in his thigh during a sprint towards the end of the course.
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After an MRI, it was confirmed that Benzema had suffered a muscle strain that would require three weeks of recovery time.
The 2022 World Cup, which starts on Sunday and ends on December 18, will be the first since 1978 without a reigning Ballon d’Or winner.
France begin the defense of the World Cup they won in 2018 with a win over Australia on Tuesday. According to FIFA rules, they will be given 24 hours before their first match to name their team’s place.
France’s other options in their squad include 2018 star Kylian Mbappe as well as Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembele.
“I am very sorry for Karim, who made this World Cup a great goal,” coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Despite this new injury for the French team, I have full confidence in my team. We will do everything in our power to face the big challenge that awaits us.”
Benzema also addressed his withdrawal in an Instagram post.
“I’ve never given up in my life but tonight I have to think about the team, like I always do,” 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 have already been affected by the withdrawal of injuries to RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku and Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe.
Randal Kolo Muani of Eintracht Frankfurt and Axel Disasi of Monaco were named as their replacements.
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Benzema was France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup but did not play in their 2018 World Cup campaign as he was being kicked out of the squad for his role in home of the subject of the sex tape with French ex-partner Mathieu Valbuena.
Deschamps recalled him during last year’s European Championship, where he was France’s top scorer with four goals.
The 34-year-old enjoyed his best season with Real Madrid last campaign, finishing as the top scorer in LaLiga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15 goals) in lead the Spanish giants to two major trophies.
However, he has struggled with injuries throughout the first half of the season.
He had played just 26 minutes of football last month due to muscle fatigue, and Saturday was the first time he trained with the French team since they met on Monday.
Deschamps was hopeful his player would recover in time, but Saturday’s injury has now ruled him out of the competition.
Even before naming his team, the French coach was without long-term injuries to Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – two key players at the time. Les Bleus won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.