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World Cup 2022: France lose Karim Benzema to injury

France striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the World Cup in Qatar on the eve of the tournament after suffering an injury in training.

This article was originally published on 20 November 2022

Benzema had been expected to lead the line for Didier Deschamps's side, but he suffered an injury during training on Saturday.

The French coaching staff had initially hoped that this would keep Benzema out of their first match against Australia, but scans revealed further damage.

The Real Madrid forward recently won the 2022 Ballon d'Or - awarded to the world's best player - after helping his club win the Champions League and La Liga, but he will now fly home for treatment.

After an MRI scan, doctors confirmed Benzema's injury requires a three-week recovery period, and the 34-year-old says it is time to put the team first.

In a statement, Benzema said: "In my life, I have never given up, but tonight I have to think about the team, as I have always done, so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our group make a good World Cup.

"Thank you for all your messages of support."

What: World Cup 2022
Where: Qatar
When: Sunday, 20th November - Sunday, 18th December 2022
How to watch: BBC and ITV
Odds: Brazil 10/3, Argentina 11/2, France 15/2, England 8/1, Spain 8/1, Germany 11/1

France's loss is Australia's gain

Les Bleus boss Deschamps has confirmed he will not call up a replacement for Benzema, which is a surprise considering his previous decisions.

After injuries to Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku, Deschamps added Axel Disasi and Randal Kolo Muani to his squad, but the former midfielder clearly feels that he has enough options in attack.

Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele will now fight it out to start up front, but the late injury news may help Australia pick up a result.

The Aussies have lost striker Martin Boyle for the whole World Cup, but there is no doubt that Benzema's injury improves Australia's chances of landing a share of the spoils.

France are 3/10 to start the tournament with a win, the draw is 9/2, while Australia are 17/2 to record a shock victory.

Mbappe shortens in Golden Boot market

Benzema's injury means he will be the first Ballon d'Or winner to miss the World Cup since 1978 when Allan Simonsen missed out when Denmark failed to qualify.

Prior to his injury, Benzema had been the third favourite to win the Golden Boot in Qatar, but his absence paves the way for someone else to move into contention.

Benzema's 15 goals in the Champions League proved he could handle the big occasion, but England's Harry Kane remains the favourite for the Golden Boot at 7/1.

Benzema's team-mate Mbappe is 7/1 to finish as the top goalscorer, and he will hope to build on his performance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Paris Saint-Germain ace scored four goals in Russia, two behind Kane, who won the Golden Boot.

Lionel Messi is 10/1 to score the most goals in what is likely to be his final World Cup, while Brazil's Neymar Jr can be backed at 12/1 to get his hands on the Golden Boot for the first time.

France face a fight to keep hold of World Cup crown

Even though France have been handed a relatively easy group, they are still the third favourites to win the tournament in Qatar.

France are 15/2 to retain their crown, but they will need to be at their very best to overcome both 10/3 Brazil and 11/2 Argentina, who are shorter in the market.

Deschamps' side has been decimated by injuries in the build-up to the World Cup, with midfield duo Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante not named in the original 26-man squad.

Benzema returned to training alongside defender Raphael Varane, but the Manchester United defender is still a doubt after missing the Red Devils' last five matches.

Anthony Martial is another option from the bench for Deschamps up front, and Les Bleus' squad will need to use all of the experience they gained in Russia when they won their second World Cup.

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