By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Defending champion France’s World Cup hopes took a huge blow with the news that star striker Karim Benzema is out of the tournament after tearing a muscle in his left thigh during training on Saturday.
“Karim Benzema is out of the World Cup,” the French soccer federation (FFF) said. “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 was taking part in his first full training session with Les Bleus when he had to come off after feeling some pain in his left thigh, the FFF said.
“He went for an MRI scan in a hospital (clinic) in Doha, which unfortunately confirmed a tear,” the FFF said, adding that he will need three weeks to recover.
“I’m very sad for Karim who had made this World Cup a major objective,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
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, Benzema has played fewer than 30 minutes for Madrid after coming off the bench in a Champions League game.
L’Equipe earlier said that Benzema “felt a sharp muscle pain” in his left thigh in training.
France faces Australia on Tuesday in Group D, then Denmark four days later and Tunisia on Nov. 30.
Benzema was France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup but did not play in France’s victorious 2018 World Cup campaign because he was still exiled from the team for his alleged role in a sex-tape scandal with then-France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
France coach Didier Deschamps recalled him for last year’s European Championship, where he was France’s top scorer with four goals.
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