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France's Karim Benzema practices during a training session at the Jassim Bin Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar. The Real Madrid striker has been ruled out of the tournament due to injury. It is a massive blow to France who have already lost star players N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba to injury. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: France are the current World Cup champions and they were being tipped by many to defend their title in Qatar. But I don’t even think they will make it out of Group D and that is because of the latest injury blow to hit the team.

Having already lost vital midfielders Christopher Nkunku, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba not to mention defender Wesley Fofana to injuries, Le Bleus will now be without their talisman striker Karim Benzema. And I think this now basically wipes out their chances of defending their title.

Three week layoff

The Real Madrid forward and current Ballon d’Or holder sustained a thigh injury in training on Saturday evening. He was rushed to Aspetar Hospital in Doha where scans revealed a tear in the muscle. He will need a recovery period of three weeks meaning he will now play no part in the tournament.

The 34-year-old had also been suffering from a hamstring strain and was already a doubt for France’s first match against Australia on Tuesday. Coach Didier Deschamps has the personnel in attack to cover for Benzema but he will be massively disappointed to lose his star for the entire showpiece which is taking place in the Middle East for the first time.

Benzema’s World Cup dream is over and I fear it is now also over for France without a ball even being kicked, such is his importance in the team. Sure, they have Kylian Mbappe who can change the game in a split second but now far too much pressure will be on his shoulders to carry the team. Deschamps will likely pair the Paris-Saint Germain man up front with Olivier Giroud and this will change the dynamics of the team completely.

Target man

Giroud is more of a target man and not nearly as mobile or comfortable with the ball at his feet unlike Benzema. This means France may now need to bypass the midfield completely and opt for the long ball game to get 6 foot 3 inch Giroud involved more and to have an impact but I don’t think Mbappe will be too happy to run into the channels and supply the ammunition for his potentially new strike partner.

Losing Benzema, who was just awarded the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards Player of the Year accolade, is a massive setback and confidence be drained from the squad following the news.

The challenge to defend the title was already huge for France – it had never been done since Brazil achieved the feat in 1962. But now without their main man to lead the team, it will be almost impossible for them. The Aussies will fancy their chances on Tuesday and now may even feel they can sneak into second place behind Denmark. We always felt this tournament would provide some huge shocks - France failing to get out of the group could be the biggest one.