France’s hopes of repeating as World Cup champion took a blow Saturday when superstar striker Karim Benzema was ruled out of the tournament following an injury during training.
Karim Benzema, one of the world’s best strikers and recent winner of the Ballon d’Or as the best player in Europe, has been ruled out of the World Cup a day before the tournament opens after suffering an injury during a training session.
After undergoing an MRI, ESPN reported that France confirmed on Saturday Benzema had suffered a muscle tear that would need three weeks recovery time.
“I am extremely sad for Karim, who had made this World Cup a major objective,” France manager 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 to meet the huge challenge that awaits us.”
The World Cup opens Sunday when host nation Qatar takes on Ecuador. Benzema’s injury marks the first time since 1978 that the reigning Ballon d’Or winner will miss the World Cup.
What does Karim Benzema injury mean for France in 2022 World Cup?
Les Bleus begin their title defense on Tuesday against Australia. FIFA rules state that the team has 24 hours before their first match to be able to replace an injured player to their 26-man roster.
France are in Group D along with Denmark, Australia and Tunisia.
France has not yet named a replacement, although they enter the World Cup plagued by injuries. Striker Christopher Nkunku, centre back Presnel Kimpembe and midfielders N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba were all forced to miss the World Cup due in injury.
Benzema’s injury does not bode well for France. Les Blues are favorites to win their group, but will have to buck historical trends to do so. The curse of the defending champions not advancing to the knockout stage (the last three World Cup champions exited the tournament in the first round at the following edition).