France faced an uphill task in defending their World Cup crown after Karim Benzema was ruled out of the event on Saturday night.
The Real Madrid striker tore a muscle in his left thigh in training on Saturday. Benzema is the most recent addition to France’s injury list, which already included team regulars N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Christian Nkunku.
De ma vie je n’ai jamais abandonné mais ce soir il faut que je pense à l’équipe comme je l’ai toujours fait alors la raison me dit de laisser ma place à quelqu’un qui pourra aider notre groupe à faire une belle Coupe du Monde. Merci pour tous vos messages de soutien 🙌🏼❤️ pic.twitter.com/SBalX0juAH
— Karim Benzema (@Benzema) November 19, 2022
Benzema has been among the world’s most prolific scorers in recent years. Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in 2018, the Frenchman has taken on the mantle of being the team’s central attacking force and has significantly raised his game.
He scored a staggering 131 goals — nearly 33 a season — for the club between 2018-19 and 2021-22. He carried a below-par Real Madrid almost single-handedly to the La Liga title in the 2019-20 season, averaging nearly two goals a game.
At that stage, Benzema had not played for the national team since October 2015. But his club form made it impossible for France manager Didier Deschamps to exclude him from his plans. Benzema got out of purgatory last summer and was included in the French squad for Euro 2020, where he struck up a lethal partnership with Kylian Mbappe up front and scored four goals in the competition, including a brace against Portugal.
Last season was a seminal one 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 scored 15 goals in the Champions League, including successive hat-tricks against Chelsea in the round of 16 and Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinal.
The Ballon D’Or — awarded to the world’s top football player — he received last month was recognition of the level he had been consistently performing at for the past few years. But the injury on Saturday has ended his chance to seek an even bigger prize: the World Cup with France.
His team will be hurting too. Without one of the world’s best strikers, France will find it significantly harder to retain their title.