November 21 – France’s hopes of retaining the World Cup, already severely compromised by the loss of several key players, have suffered the most crippling blow of all with striker Karim Benzema ruled out of the tournament.
Real Madrid’s Ballon d’Or winner tore a muscle in his left thigh during training on Saturday, wrecking his dream of lifting the trophy.
Benzema was participating in his first full training session with Les Bleus. “He went for an MRI scan in a hospital (clinic) in Doha, which unfortunately confirmed a tear,” the French Football Federation said in a statement, adding that he will need three weeks to recover.
Benzema addressed his fans after the news broke.
“I’ve never given up in my life but tonight I have to think of the team, as I have always done,” he posted on his Instagram account.
“So reason tells me to give my place to someone who can help our squad have a great World Cup. Thanks for all your messages of support.”
France coach Didier Deschamps, who lost Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kimpembe only last week having already been shorn of Paul Pogba and N’Gole Kante, said he was “very sad for Karim who had made this World Cup a major objective.”
It is a crushing blow for Benzema, only the fifth Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or award and the first since Zinedine Zidane, his idol, in 1998.
Benzema, who had a stellar season with Real, joins a list of big names injured shortly before the World Cup, most notably Senegal’s Sadio Mane
Deschamps has seen his squad riddled with injury and has an anxious wait to see if his best central defender, Raphael Varane, will be fit to face Australia exactly a month since he limped off for Manchester United with a hamstring injury.
“Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the huge challenge that awaits us,” Deschamps added defiantly.
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