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Most fans and pundits have England and France on collision course for the World Cup quarter-finals where the majority then expect the Three Lions to come up short. Well, this evening that momentum might have just swung in England’s favour with Karim Benzema being ruled out of the tournament owing to a training ground injury.
What happened to Benzema?
Karim Benzema was coming into this World Cup off the back of the best season of his life having netted 44 goals and winning the La Liga and Champions League with Real Madrid last season on route to scooping the Ballon d’Or. That said, Didier Deschamps took a minor risk including him in his final 26-man squad owing to fitness issues that have plagued him for the last few weeks albeit it’s a risk every manager in the world would have taken.
Unfortunately, Les Bleus will now be without Benzema in Qatar after he broke down in training on the eve of the tournament’s big kick off. Benzema exited French training early on Saturday with a thigh injury, which is believed to be unrelated to those aforementioned fitness issues.
Somewhat strangely, there were doubts ahead of the training session taking place that Benzema wouldn’t be out on the grass. When he then turned out the French fans were buzzing on social media ahead of their opening game against Australia on Monday with French journalist Julien Laurens branding it “great news”. The striker then headed indoors early with scans revealing his injury was severe enough to rule him out of the entire competition.
Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane ARE training with the France squad tonight. Great news ahead of the game against Australia on Tuesday. @espnfc
— Julien Laurens (@LaurensJulien) November 19, 2022
Why do England care that Benzema is out injured?
Benzema suffering a World Cup ending injury is devastating for France but it could prove to be a huge deal for Gareth Southgate and England. If the early stages of the competition play out as the bookmakers predict then the two nations will face off in the last eight. After England’s squad announcement the defence was quickly flagged as the weak link and many were quick to point out how fearful they were of the likes of Benzema and Kylian Mbappe tearing them apart. Well, half of that deadly duo won’t be there now and that will boost England’s chances of beating them in a one off game should the brackets unfold in that manner.
Can France cope without Benzema?
France have suffered a string of injuries ahead of the World Cup kicking off with Mike Maignan, Presnel Kimpembe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Christopher Nkunku already out of contention but, unquestionably, Benzema will be their biggest loss and, arguably, he’s the last player they’d have wanted to see breakdown. They’ll be able to call an another player up in his place but it’s going to see a real drop off in quality.
Randal Kolo Muani was called up to the squad in the aftermath of Nkunku’s injury and it is now understood that Martin Terrier and Wissam Ben Yedder are the front runners to be drafted in now Benzema’s out. One final wildcard selection for Deschamps is Man United forward Antony Martial. Regardless of who France turn to, they’re not going to be at Benzema’s level.