France star striker Karim Benzema will miss the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after suffering a thigh injury in training on Saturday, the French soccer federation (FFF) announced.
“Karim Benzema is out of the World Cup,” its statement read (h/t AP). “After hurting the quadriceps on his left thigh the Real Madrid striker is forced to give up on taking part in the World Cup.”
Benzema quickly underwent an MRI in Doha after feeling the pain while sprinting, which revealed he’ll need at least three weeks to recover.
“I’ve never given up in my life but tonight I have to think of the team, as I have always done,” Benzema wrote on Instagram. “So reason tells me to give my place to someone who can help our squad have a great World Cup. Thanks for all your messages of support.”
“I’m very sad for Karim,” French coach Didier Deschamps added, “who had made this World Cup a major objective.”
The 34-year-old Benzema was finally making it back to the largest stage in soccer after a six-year hiatus from the national team for his alleged role in a sex-tape scandal — including missing out on France’s World Cup win in 2018.
A remarkable resurgence with his club side, Real Madrid, saw him win the Ballon d’Or last month — awarded to the world’s best player annually — as he helped the Spanish giants win the Champions League.
He is only the fifth Frenchman ever to win the Ballon d’Or and the first since Zinadine Zidane in 1998 and will be the first player to win the award to miss the World Cup since 1978 (Allan Simonsen of Denmark).
It also prompted Deschamps to bring Benzema back into the national side, where he scored 10 goals in 16 matches.
The injury bug has continued to sweep through French ranks, as Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and Christopher Nkunku were forced on the shelf.
In Benzema’s absence, France’s attacking responsibilities will fall further on the shoulders of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe while support will be required from the likes of Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, and Ousmane Dembele.
“Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group,” Deschamps said. “We will do everything to meet the huge challenge that awaits us.”
Les Bleus starts its World Cup with a meeting against Australia on Tuesday in Group D action.