‘New blow’ for holders France as Karim Benzema is ruled out of World Cup

France’s hopes of retaining the Fifa World Cup have suffered a major blow after Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was ruled out of the entire tournament with a thigh injury sustained during training on Saturday in Qatar. 

Winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or, awarded to the best men’s player in world football over the past year, Benzema felt pain in the “quadriceps of his left thigh”, the French Football Federation said in a statement. An MRI scan confirmed that he had suffered a tear and would face a three-week recovery period.

Thanking fans for their “messages of support”, the 34-year-old said on Instagram: “In my life I have never given up but tonight I have to think about the team as I have always done so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our group make a good World Cup.”

Benzema’s injury is the “latest setback” for the reigning champions, said the Daily Mail, after “prolific” RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku was ruled out with knee ligament damage and replaced in the squad by Randal Kolo Muani. World Cup winners Presnel Kimpembe, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are also missing from the squad. 

France head coach Didier Deschamps said he was “extremely sad” for Benzema, who had made this World Cup “a major goal”. Despite this “new blow” for the French team, Deschamps has “full confidence” in his group and they will “do everything to meet the huge challenge” that awaits them. 

Deschamps has until Monday to call up a replacement for Benzema. Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder and Manchester United forward Anthony Martial are two of the potential options. Drawn in group D at the World Cup, France begin their title defence against Australia on Tuesday 22 November.

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