Karim Benzema's participation with France at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is over after the Real Madrid attacker suffered injury in his first full training session with the defending champions, the team announced. The 34-year-old Ballon d'Or titleholder had to withdraw from the Saturday's practice early which immediately caused concern within Didier Deschamps' coaching staff.
Tests at the ASPETAR facilities in Doha showed that Benzema has suffered a left thigh injury significant enough to rule him out of the French campaign this winter. Early indications suggest that he will be out for four to six weeks, with his club team, Real, expected to do scans of their own to confirm the severity of the injury, CBS Sports understands.
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"I have never given up in my life, but tonight I must think about the team -- as I always have done," wrote Benzema on Twitter. "Reason tells me to leave my place to someone else who can help our group to a great World Cup. Thank you all for your messages of support."
Deschamps announced on Sunday that he will not be replacing Benzema in his squad, so France's roster will be 25-man instead of the maximum 26 with 23 being the minimum allowed. Ahead of the French opener vs. Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday, Deschamps had until Monday to call up a replacement -- 24 hours before Les Bleus' first game and the cut-off date.
"It is a big blow, of course," Deschamps told TF1. "Karim had done everything. It was during a sessions and it was almos innocuous. Sadly, exams confirmed a lesion which was too big for the time constraints we are under. Unfortunately, these things can happen in training. It is never the right time. It was not a relapse. It does not make you smile. We already lost Christopher and everyone was very sad about that. Now Karim, but we have an aim and the squad knows what were are up against from Tuesday. This is a quality group and I have confidence in them."
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Benzema and defender Raphael Varane had been training separately since France's congregation at Clairefontaine and this was the pair's first session with their teammates. The former Olympique Lyonnais man has only played 27 minutes over the past month and has suffered knee and hamstring issues of late before this latest setback which was suffered without physical contact with anybody else.
"I saw him after training to see how he was," Antoine Griezmann told TF1. "Seeing his face, I knew it was not a good sign. Afterwards, on the bus, he was sad. As the coach said, it is a blow. It is important that we do not give up, though. We must continue working as we have a World Cup to play and our first game against Australia to consider."
However, Deschamps has been boosted by the news that Varane came through training unscathed and will be available to face the Socceroos early next week. Benzema has five La Liga goals to his name so far this season for Real who he helped to win the UEFA Champions League last campaign.
Pushed on why he did not replace Benzema, Deschamps responded: "Because I decided, simply." The French tactician also confirmed that the Real man "has already left" and Deschamps also feels that he has "eight" capable attacking options.
Christopher Nkunku before leaving France and was replaced by Randal Kolo Muani while Marcus Thuram was also added to the traveling party after the initial announcement. Presnel Kimpembe was also ruled out through injury and replaced by Axel Diasi while Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, and Mike Maignan were already ruled out of action before Deschamps picked his squad.