Defending World Cup champions France have been dealt another blow as they prepare for the 2022 tournament in Qatar with Karim Benzema ruled out through injury.
The Real Madrid star and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner was injured during training on Saturday, with subsequent MRI scans confirming a significant quadriceps injury in his left leg.
Benzema will be sidelined for at least three weeks, with France coach Didier Deschamps left reeling from another injury blow.
“I am extremely sad for Karim who made this World Cup a major goal,” Deschamps said via a statement from the French Football Federation.
“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.”
MORE: World Cup 2022 injury tracker, who could miss Qatar?
Karim Benzema injury record
Benzema’s body has failed him at the wrong time after a superb 2021/22 season that saw him deservedly win the Ballon d’Or.
The 34-year-old has missed nine matches for Real Madrid leading up to the 2022 World Cup with muscular injuries keeping him sidelined for a number of weeks.
The French forward’s legs have regularly troubled him throughout his career, with hamstring and thigh problems a common issue.
Benzema also has a broken finger that still requires surgery which is why he plays games with a bandaged hand.
— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) November 19, 2022
Can France replace Benzema in World Cup squad?
While Benzema’s World Cup absence will be a major blow for France, the timing of the injury could have been worse.
Based on FIFA rules, Deschamps still has until 24 hours before their opening match against Australia to name a replacement for Benzema.
France have already had to make a number of tweaks to their original squad, with Randal Kolo Muani and Axel Disasi both called up over the past week.
Who will France replace Benzema with?
With Benzema ruled out and France still having time to replace him, all eyes are now on who Deschamps will call up at the last hour.
Wissam Ben Yedder appears to be the early favourite, with the 32-year-old boasting 19 caps for the national team and in fine form at club level with Monaco. He has scored six goals across the first 13 league games of the new season.
Bayer Leverkusen forward Moussa Diaby is another likely candidate and has scored eight goals in all competitions this season for his German club. The 23-year-old is yet to score for France across eight appearances.
A final name seemingly in the frame is Lyon’s Martin Terrier, who has 11 goals in all competitions this season. Unlike the other two players, however, the 25-year-old is yet to make his senior France debut.
France’s World Cup injury crisis
Benzema is the sixth key player ruled out of France’s 2022 World Cup campaign.
He joins a growing list of names that includes: Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Mike Maignan, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku.
Reigning World Cup winners have recently struggled in tournaments after their triumph and France’s current injury woes won’t help their cause in Qatar.
Has Benzema played at the World Cup before?
Benzema has only featured at one World Cup to date and that was back in 2014.
After missing out on selection in 2010, Benzema forced his way into the side for the Brazil tournament and scored a brace on his tournament debut against Honduras.
The Real Madrid star was, however, controversially frozen out of the France team between 2016 and 2021 following his part in a sex-tape scandal, meaning he missed the side’s 2018 World Cup triumph.
Time is now against him playing at a second tournament with Benzema set to be 38 by the time World Cup 2026 rolls around.