Karim Benzema will not participate in the 2022 World Cup due to a leg injury, the French national team announced Saturday.
The star striker, 34, left a practice session early with pain in his upper leg. An MRI found that he hurt his femoral rectus, a muscle in the quadriceps. The injury will require three weeks of recovery, which means he will miss the entire tournament as France seeks to defend its World Cup title.
“I am extremely sad for Karim who made this World Cup a major goal. Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group,” team manager Didier Deschamps said in a statement translated from French. “We will do everything to meet the huge challenge that awaits us.”
“In my life I never give up but tonight I have to think about the team like I always do,” Benzema said in French on Instagram of having to sit out the tournament, “so the reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our team to make a great world cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”
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In October, Benzema won the 2022 men’s Ballon d’Or, soccer’s highest honor. Last season for Real Madrid, he had a career-high 27 goals and led the Champions League with 15 goals.
The Ballon d’Or runner up, Senegal’s Sadio Mané, will also miss the World Cup after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured tendon.
Benzema made his debut for the French national team in 2007 and has had 97 appearances for the side. He led the team with three goals in the 2014 World Cup, but was left off the roster in 2018 due to a sex-tape scandal.
The World Cup kicks off Sunday as host nation Qatar plays Ecuador. France has its first game Tuesday against Australia.