Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup in what is a huge blow to France’s hopes of retaining their title in Qatar.
RMC reported that the French medical staff were “very concerned” about the Real Madrid forward’s prospects of being fit for the competition as a whole on Saturday evening.
L’Equipe then reported later in the evening that the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner would be ruled out of their tournament opener against Australia, adding to the doubt surrounding his involvement in Qatar.
Benzema took part in France’s first training session before having to end his involvement due to a thigh injury.
He joins an already lengthy list of Les Bleus absentees, with Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunku and goalkeeper Mike Maignan already ruled out due to their own injuries.
The 34-year-old will now become the first Ballon d’Or winner since Kevin Keegan in 1978 to miss the tournament.
In fact, both of the top two players in this year’s Ballon d’Or rankings will miss football’s biggest party, as Sadio Mane will play no part for Senegal either.
It is a huge travesty from a personal perspective in what has otherwise been a stellar career for Benzema, who has only appeared at one World Cup – the 2014 tournament in Brazil – after not being selected for their triumphant 2018 campaign.
“I am extremely sad for Karim as this World Cup was a major objective of his,” said Deschamps in a statement made by the French national team, “Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group.
“We will do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us.”
The France head coach has until Monday to decide whether or not to call up a replacement, with Olivier Giroud touted as the prime candidate to be drafted in.
Giroud is loving life in Italy at AC Milan and could break Thierry Henry’s all-time record of 51 goals, should the former Arsenal and Chelsea man be called upon.
After facing the Socceroos, France take on Denmark next Saturday before concluding their Group D campaign against Tunisia on November 30.