World Cup 2022: France lose Ballon d’Or winner for tournament after tearing muscle in training
The World Cup will now take place without one of football’s best players, perhaps its best.
Frenchman Karim Benzema tore a thigh muscle during training on Saturday and will miss the tournament. The injury requires at least three weeks of recovery.
“I never gave up in my life, but tonight I have to think about the team, like I always have,” Benzema said on Instagram. “So reason tells me to give my place to someone who can help our team have a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”
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“I am extremely sad for Karim, who made this World Cup a major goal,” coach Didier Deschamps said in a statement. “Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us.”
Benzema won the 2022 Ballon d’Or, which annually rewards the best footballer in the world. It will be the first World Cup since 1978 that does not feature the reigning winner of the Ballon d’Or, an award Lionel Messi has won seven times.
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France are the defending World Cup champions after beating Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final in Moscow. Benzema was dropped from this league list because he was the subject of a blackmail scandal over an alleged recording of a sex video of fellow French player Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was found guilty last November of blackmail conspiracy.
Benzema was also controversially dropped from the 2010 squad amid another sex scandal. Due to the blackmail plot, he was left out of the French national team until Euros 2020, which was played in the summer of 2021 due to COVID-19. He led the team in the tournament with four goals.
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The 34-year-old has scored 27 La Liga goals and 15 in the Champions League, both league highs, for Real Madrid.
France’s title defense begins on Tuesday against Australia.