Karim Benzema is out of the World Cup due to injury

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

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

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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.

The 2022 World Cup, which begins on Sunday and ends on December 18, will now be the first since 1978 not to feature the reigning Ballon d’Or winner.

France begins its defense of the World Cup title it won in 2018 when it takes on Australia on Tuesday. Under FIFA rules, they will have up to 24 hours before their first match to name a replacement for their squad.

France’s other striker 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 an important 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 possible to face the great challenge that awaits us.”

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

Randal Kolo Muani from Eintracht Frankfurt and Axel Disasi from Monaco were named as replacements.

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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 in exile from the team for his alleged role in a sex tape scandal with then-mate France Mathieu Valbuena.

Deschamps called him up 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 season, finishing top scorer in LaLiga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15 goals) to lead the Spanish giants to both trophies. main.

However, he has had to deal with injuries during the early part of this season.

He had played just 26 minutes of soccer in the 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 that his striker could recover in time, but Saturday’s injury has ruled him out of the tournament.

Even before naming his squad, the France coach was without long-term injury absences Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, two key players when the blues He won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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