World Cup champions France dealt body blow after star striker and Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema ruled out of tournament

The 34-year-old sustained a thigh injury in training and joins other big names, including Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, on the sidelines as Didier Deschamps' men kick off their campaign against Australia on Tuesday.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 20 November 2022 - 2.36am

Ballon d'Or winner and France talisman Karim Benzema is out of the World Cup after sustaining a thigh injury.

The 34-year-old had been struggling with a thigh issue in recent weeks - playing less than half an hour in Real Madrid's last six matches - and picked up the latest issue in his first training session with Les Bleus on Saturday, with an MRI scan confirming the damage. 

The striker, who has 37 goals in 97 caps, will be out of action for around three weeks. France opening their Group D campaign on Tuesday against Australia. 

Reacting to the terrible news, manager Didier Deschamps said: "I am extremely sad for Karim who made this World Cup a major goal.

"Despite this new setback, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us."

The France Football Federation said: "The whole team shares Karim's sadness and wishes him a speedy recovery."

No replacement has yet been named, although Anthony Martial is in one of the names in the frame. 

Benzema looked set to take part in his second World Cup, having been omitted for the 2018 tournament, which France won, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final. 

He joins compatriots like Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Christopher Nkunku on the sidelines, with Nkunku suffering injury heartbreak after his call-up and seeing his place in the squad taken by Eintracht Frankurt forward Randal Kolo Muani.