Karim Benzema is to miss the whole World Cup after being injured during training with France in Qatar.
The French Football Federation said in a statement that the Real Madrid forward was forced to cut short training after feeling “pain in the quadriceps of his left thigh”. An MRI scan later confirmed a rectus femoris tendon injury, which means the 34-year-old faces a three-week recovery period.
Didier Deschamps, the France coach, said: “I am extremely sad for Karim who made this World Cup a major goal. 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.”
The injury-hit World Cup holders, already without Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, begin their defence against Australia on Tuesday. Deschamps has until Monday to call up a replacement for Benzema, with the Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder one option.
Benzema had hardly played at all in recent weeks and this was his first full training session with Les Bleus. Since winning the Ballon d’Or last month he has played fewer than 30 minutes for Madrid.
He was France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup but did not play in the victorious 2018 World Cup campaign because he was still exiled from the team for his involvement in a sex tape extortion scandal that shocked French sport. He returned for last year’s European Championship, and finished as France’s top scorer.
Deschamps has seen his squad riddled with injuries. Forward Christopher Nkunku was injured just minutes before the end of the team’s last training session on Tuesday evening and replaced in the squad by Randal Kolo Muani.
The coach also has an anxious wait to see if his best central defender, Raphael Varane, is fit to face Australia, exactly a month since he limped off for Manchester United with a hamstring injury.
Fellow World Cup winner and central defender Presnel Kimpembe pulled out on Monday after failing to prove his fitness following a hamstring injury.