France’s World Cup hopes were dealt a huge blow late Saturday when Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar due to an injured left thigh.
The 34-year-old Real Madrid striker had been battling an injury for some time and had played less than half an hour in his club’s last six games before the World Cup.

For the first time since the World Cup holders gathered last week ahead of the tournament, he participated in full training on Saturday.

With the injury, he was forced to withdraw from the session at Qatari champions Al Sadd’s home stadium and was taken for tests.

The French Football Federation later said in a statement that the injury “will require a recovery period of three weeks,” ruling out any prospect of him being fully fit for the tournament which finishes on December 18.

“I am extremely sad for Karim, for whom this World Cup was a major objective,” France coach, Didier Deschamps, was quoted as saying in the FFF statement.

“Despite this new blow for the France team I have full faith in my squad. We will do all we can to rise to the huge challenge that awaits us.”

Olivier Giroud, 36, is expected to benefit from Benzema’s absence by joining France’s attack alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

However, according to FIFA rules, Deschamps can call up a replacement for an injured player until Monday, the day before their first game.

France will begin their title defense against Australia in Al Wakrah on Tuesday.

They will also face Denmark and Tunisia in Group D as they seek to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.


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