Benzema

The injury situation for reigning World Cup champion France just got worse with another of the world’s best ruled out for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

French and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out for the entire tournament after suffering an injury in training just three days before France opens its title defense on Tuesday against Australia.

Julien Laurens of ESPN was first to report that Benzema had injured his thigh in training on Saturday night in Qatar and had been ruled out for the first game. The French national team later confirmed one of the world’s best goal-scorers would miss the World Cup.

“I am extremely sad for Karim, who had made this World Cup a major objective,” French coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group.”

Benzema is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, awarded annually by FIFA to the world’s best player after he led Real Madrid to a UEFA Champions League title last season. Benzema, 34, has scored 37 times in 97 caps for France. It’s possible this might have been his final World Cup.

The absence of the reigning Ballon d’Or winner from the World Cup for the first time since 1978 sent a shockwave throughout the soccer community less than 24 hours before the tournament kicks off Sunday. What made the news more painful was knowing Benzema wasn’t on the team last World Cup in Russia when Les Blues hoisted the cup.