France’s World Cup preparations have met with a serious setback, with L’Equipe reporting star striker Karim Benzema is definitely out of their tournament opener against Australia and a serious doubt for the remainder of the tournament.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner was expected to be the focal point of the defending champions’ attack alongside Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.
However, the current campaign has been one of disruption for Benzema who has missed a number of games for Real Madrid due to niggling injuries.
France boss Didier Deschamps has given little away with regard to Benzema’s fitness, but it was reported on Saturday that he had suffered a setback in training.
RMC said the French medical staff were “very concerned” about the forward’s prospect of being fit, and L’Equipe later added that he had no chance of playing in their opening game of the 2022 World Cup against Australia in Qatar.
Should L’Equipe’s report prove to be correct, France boss Deschamps has a dilemma. He has until Monday to draft in a replacement, or stick with Benzema in the hope that he can shake off his problems later in the tournament.
Should Benzema miss out, the obvious candidate to step in is Olivier Giroud.
The former Arsenal man has enjoyed a new lease of life at AC Milan, and Giroud is two goals off equalling Thierry Henry’s France record mark of 51.
Following the clash with Australia on Tuesday, France take on Denmark next Saturday before concluding their Group D campaign against Tunisia on November 30.
Les Bleus would be expected to advance from the group stage with or without Benzema, but they have been hit with a series of issues.
Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante would be first-choice midfielders for Deschamps, but both failed to make the squad due to injuries.
Defending champions do not have the greatest record at World Cups. Brazil were the last team to defend the title in 1962, while Germany crashed out in the group stage four years ago after triumphing in 2014.
Deschamps will look for his side to buck the trend in Qatar over the next five weeks.