French striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a left thigh injury in training in Doha on Saturday, the French FA confirmed.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner experienced severe thigh pain during a sprint towards the end of the session.
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After an MRI, it was confirmed that Benzema had sustained a muscle tear that would take three weeks to recover.
The 2022 World Cup, which begins on Sunday and runs through to the final on December 18, will now be the first since 1978 not to feature the reigning Ballon d’Or winner.
France begin their defense of the 2018 World Cup title when they take on Australia on Tuesday. As per FIFA rules, they have up to 24 hours before their first game to name a replacement for their squad.
France’s other forward options in their squad include 2018 star Kylian Mbappe, as well as Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembele.
“I am very sad for Karim who has made this World Cup a big goal,” said coach Didier Deschamps in a statement. “Despite this renewed blow to the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the great challenge that awaits us.”
France’s preparations in Qatar had already been hit by the absence of RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku and Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe through injury.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani and Monaco’s Axel Disasi 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 season because he was still banned from the team for his alleged role in a sex tape scandal with then-France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
Deschamps called him up for last year’s European Championships, where he was France’s top scorer with four goals.
The 34-year-old had the best season of his career with Real Madrid last season, finishing as top scorer in LaLiga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15 goals) to guide the Spanish giants to both major trophies.
However, he struggled with injuries in the first part of this season.
He had only played 26 minutes of football in the past month due to muscle fatigue and on Saturday he trained with the French side for the first time 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 his squad was named, the France coach was without long-term absentees Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante – two key players while he was there Les Bleus won the World Cup in Russia four years ago.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.