The FIFA World Cup is the biggest stage in football and this year’s tournament features some of the best players on the planet including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski. However, this year’s Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema hasn’t yet featured for France due to injury.
The 34-year-old striker was expected to lead the line for France during the tournament in Qatar but has been absent from the squad due to injury. The news will undoubtedly come as a huge blow for Didier Deschamps and his team who are aiming to win two consecutive World Cup tournaments.
Benzema is viewed as one of the best strikers of his generation - he is a five time Champions League winner, four time La Liga winner and a two time Copa del Rey winner. He has made 97 appearances for his country and offers vast experience to Deschamps’ side.
France have had a number of setbacks in the build up to this World Cup and Didier Deschamps has also had to contend with injuries to the likes of Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe.
But what caused Karim Benzema’s injury and is he likely to return for the knockout stage of the tournament?
Is Karim Benzema injured?
Karim Benzema looks set to miss the World Cup through a thigh injury and he was withdrawn from France’s squad before their opener against Australia.
French newspaper L’Equipe claims that the player appeared unsettled in the build up to France’s World Cup opener, even before his withdrawal was confirmed. The Real Madrid striker had been called up to the squad despite suffering from pains in his knee and thigh.
The French striker has struggled for fitness this campaign for Real Madrid and has played a total of just 26 minutes in the last month for the Spanish champions.
Could Karim Benzema return for France?
Despite pulling out through injury, Karim Benzema could still have a slim chance of helping Didier Deschamps side in the later stages of the tournament.
Spanish newspaper Onda Madrid claim that Benzema is close to a return to training with Real Madrid. The 34-year-old was named in the France squad for the World Cup and is still available to be called upon by Deschamps if he is deemed fit enough.
However, despite the reports it remains unlikely that Benzema will play any role in the tournament. France have already secured their way to the knockout stages of the World Cup and Deschamps has a host of attacking options at his disposal including veteran striker Oliver Giroud, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Atletico Madrid forward Antonie Griezmann. Benzema offers a great deal of quality to any team but would be a big risk for Les Bleus given his lack of match fitness.
Who else is injured for France?
Didier Deschamps has had to contend with a number of injury problems in the build up to the World Cup.
AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan will miss the tournament in Qatar due to injury. The 27-year-old shot-stopper helped guide AC Milan to a league title last year and was expected to compete with Hugo Lloris for a starting spot at this year’s tournament.
PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe is another high profile absence for France. The 27-year-old defender was part of Les Bleus triumphant Russia 2018 campaign and has been a regular fixture in a strong PSG side in recent seasons.
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Chelsea star N’Golo Kante are also high profile absentees for France in the upcoming World Cup campaign. The midfield pair were both regular starters in Russia 2018.
RB Leipzig attacker Christopher Nkunku has also been withdrawn from the squad due to injury. The 25-year-old has been a key figure for Marco Rose’s side this season and has scored an impressive 12 goals from 15 games. Nkunku was replaced by fellow Bundesliga star Randal Kolo Muani of Eintracht Frankfurt. The 23-year-old striker helped Nantes to a shock Coupe de France triumph last season.
What is the France squad for Qatar 2022?
Didier Deschamps remains confident that his side will excel in Qatar 2022 and has an immensely strong squad at his disposal. Deschamps said: “I’ve got 25 players in my squad. I’m convinced that I have the efficient number of players to be able to deal with the challenges we face.”
Here is the France squad for Qatar 2022:
- Hugo Lloris - Tottenham Hotspur
- Alphonse Areola - West Ham United
- Steve Mandanda - Stade Rennes
- William Saliba - Arsenal
- Raphael Varane - Manchester United
- Ibrahim Konate - Liverpool
- Axel Diasi - Monaco
- Benjamin Pavard - Bayern Munich
- Dayot Upamecano - Bayern Munich
- Lucas Hernandez - Bayern Munich
- Theo Hernandez - AC Milan
- Jules Kounde - Barcelona
- Eduardo Camavinga - Real Madrid
- Matteo Guendouzi - Marseille
- Adrien Rabiot - Juventus
- Aurelien Tchouameni - Real Madrid
- Jordan Veretout - Marseille
- Youssouf Fofana - Monaco
- Antoine Grizemann - Atletico Madrid
- Oliver Giroud - AC Milan
- Ousmane Dembele - Barcelona
- Kylian Mbappe - PSG
- Kingsley Coman - Bayern Munich
- Randal Kolo Muani - Eintracht Frankfurt
- Marcus Thuram - Borussia Monchengladbach