Benzema injury derails France’s World Cup chances

France faced an uphill task in defending their World Cup title after Karim Benzema was ruled out of the event on Saturday night.

The Real Madrid striker suffered a muscle injury to his left thigh during training on Saturday. Benzema is the latest addition to France’s injured list, which already included regulars N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Christian Nkunku.

Benzema has been among the world’s most prolific scorers in recent years. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018, the Frenchman has taken up the mantle of being the team’s central attacking force and has significantly elevated his game.

He scored an impressive 131 goals – almost 33 per season – for the club between 2018-19 and 2021-22. He led a sub-par Real Madrid almost single-handedly to the La Liga title in the 2019-20 season, averaging nearly two goals per game.

At that stage, Benzema had not played for the national team since October 2015. But the club’s form made it impossible for France coach Didier Deschamps to exclude him from his plans. Benzema emerged from purgatory last summer and was included in France’s squad for Euro 2020, where he struck up a lethal partnership with Kylian Mbappé up front and scored four goals in the competition, including two against Portugal.

Last season was seminal for Benzema. He scored 44 goals in all competitions for his club and helped Real Madrid to the league title and Champions League glory. The Frenchman has scored 15 goals in the Champions League, including back-to-back hat-tricks against Chelsea in the round of 16 and Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals.

The Ballon d’Or – awarded to the best footballer in the world – he received last month was recognition of the level at which he had consistently performed in recent years. But Saturday’s injury ended his chance to chase an even bigger prize: the World Cup with France.

His team will also suffer. Without one of the best strikers in the world, France will have a much harder time retaining their title.

 

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