Hugo Lloris fears Lucas Hernandez has suffered an "important injury", dealing France yet another blow as they bid to defend their World Cup crown.

France began their campaign with a 4-1 win over Australia on Tuesday but were without Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema, who were all ruled out of the tournament.

And left-back Hernandez was added to that injury list after he went down in attempting to stop Matthew Leckie's cross for Australia's shock opener.

The outlook does not look positive for the Bayern Munich defender, but France captain Lloris hopes his team-mates can rally as they have done before.

"It's never good to see one of your team-mates leaving the field in that way," he said. "I believe it's an important injury.

"He's not the first one, but we have to continue to look forward. Unfortunately we could not count on him, but we have a team with other players that we trust.

"We have to stay together and keep believing, keep our focus on that."

Lloris added: "We have important players left on the side for injuries, but luckily we have a lot of talented players in France, players we can trust, because they have the talent, the mentality and the desire to perform at the highest level.

"We try to create something special inside the team day by day. We try to enjoy the moment, not only on the pitch but also off the pitch.

"We have to take it game by game. Obviously it's a World Cup, there's no easy games and we have to be ready to face difficulties. When we face difficulties, we have to make sure that everybody raises their level."

The previous three holders have exited the World Cup at the group stage, but that sequence appears unlikely to be extended now.

Indeed, France's 4-1 win was the biggest in the first game of a title defence in World Cup history.

"We're obviously pleased with the result and pleased with the performance," Lloris said.

"I believe we had a good start in that game, but unfortunately we conceded that goal. We also lost one of our team-mates in this action by injury.

"But the team stayed calm, and we took control of the game and slowly started to dominate and created chances, then we scored one and two.

"Second half, I think we controlled perfectly. It's a good start."

Didier Deschamps has defended his decision to substitute Olivier Giroud in France's World Cup win over Australia, delaying his bid to become France's all-time leading goalscorer outright.

Giroud equalled Thierry Henry's record of 51 goals for France with a brace on Tuesday, helping Les Bleus fight back to post a 4-1 win in their Group D contest.

However, the striker was replaced by Marcus Thuram in the closing stages, meaning he will have to wait until Saturday's meeting with Denmark for another chance to seize the record for himself. 

Deschamps was defensive when asked why he withdrew Giroud in his post-match press conference, responding: "Would you like to take my place and be the coach? 

"Olivier Giroud did what he does best, he scored goals. You have to manage a lot of things as a coach.

"We have another match in four days and we'd already scored four goals, so sometimes it's good to give someone else a chance and give him a rest.

"You tend to talk about records a lot, he tends to focus on what he does on the pitch. 

"He was very effective tonight, which is great for him, he's useful with the way he links up with the other attackers in our team."

As well as claiming a slice of France history, Giroud – aged 36 years and 53 days – became the second-oldest player to score a World Cup brace, after Roger Milla did so twice at the 1990 tournament when 38 years old.

France initially looked unlikely to make a positive start to their World Cup defence, with Adrien Rabiot having to cancel out Craig Goodwin's opener before Giroud took centre stage.

Deschamps was pleased with Les Bleus' response to going behind after witnessing other sides fail to fight back in the tournament's opening round of fixtures.

"I think we began the match well, we linked up well in the first few minutes but we let in a goal which we should have avoided," Deschamps said.

"It was tough, but in the second half we showed a lot more confidence, we created a lot more chances and scored four goals, so of course that is good. We could have scored more, but it's a very good beginning.

"The first match is always vital, so I have to congratulate the team. We saw some earlier games where teams were unable to respond, but we did. We showed strength of character."

Tuesday began with one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history as Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1, but Deschamps said that surprise result had no bearing on France's approach.

"The players saw that match, but you have to focus on the opponent that's in front of you," he added.

Olivier Giroud feels "blessed" to have matched Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record with a brace against Australia that marked his first World Cup goals since 2014.

Giroud was a key part of the France side that won the title at Russia 2018, but he failed to score across seven matches.

The Milan striker's only previous World Cup goal had been the opener in a group-stage rout of Switzerland eight years ago, a meagre return from 12 appearances in the competition.

But Giroud never doubted himself, insisting after Tuesday's double in a 4-1 win he had not received the same level of chances in 2018.

He accrued 1.7 expected goals from five shots at Al Janoub Stadium, having had chances worth just 1.2 xG across the entirety of the previous World Cup.

"Not really," Giroud replied when asked if he was relieved. "I just try to bring what I can do to the team.

"When I get the opportunity, I try to always put it in the back of the net. This time, I couldn't miss, because I received great balls.

"If you watch the World Cup 2018, I didn't get as many chances as I would hope. Those were different kinds of games. It's very good for confidence for the next stage."

Giroud's second goal from a Kylian Mbappe cross was his 51st for France, matching Henry's record return.

"I don't like to speak about myself," Giroud said. "I will say that we started the competition well. It was massively important to win this first game.

"We started the game in not the best way, but we've shown a great character and we bounced back straight away, which was very important.

"Personally, obviously, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be next to Titi Henry now."

He added to TF1: "It's a source of great pride, I don't intend to stop there. I hope to continue in the competition so that I can help the team achieve our goal."

Didier Deschamps believes Kylian Mbappe is set for another memorable World Cup after he claimed a goal and an assist in France's 4-1 win over Australia, declaring: "It's his competition".

Mbappe became just the second teenager – after Pele in 1958 – to score in a World Cup final as France downed Croatia to win the tournament in Russia four years ago, and he made a strong start to this year's competition as Les Bleus claimed a comeback win.

Craig Goodwin handed Australia a surprise lead in Tuesday's Group D clash, but Mbappe built on first-half strikes from Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud as France got off to a winning start.

At 23 years and 337 days old, Mbappe is now the youngest player to have scored five World Cup goals for France, and Deschamps expects him to go from strength to strength in Qatar. 

"Kylian has been one of the best players in the world for some time now, and he's feeling very confident," Deschamps said. "You can see that in the way he plays. He is calm and concentrated. 

"He has been in good form for quite some time. I knew he was going to be ready for this World Cup, it's his competition and he knows how to make the difference.

"He's always been able to play as part of a team, so that's great for us, and I've got a lot of attackers, but Kylian is, of course, an outstanding one."

France's victory ensured they became the first World Cup holders to make a winning start at the tournament since Brazil did so in 2006, while their current five-match winning run at the finals is their joint-longest such streak (also five across the 1986 and 1998 editions).

However, France's win was tarnished as they received yet another injury blow, with Bayern Munich's Lucas Hernandez limping out of the game in the aftermath of Australia's early goal.

Deschamps fears the defender may have sustained a serious injury, which could open the door for his brother Theo Hernandez to start Saturday's fixture against Denmark.

"With Lucas Hernandez, we're still waiting for the results of the tests, but I'm afraid it could be pretty serious," Deschamps said.

"It's true that Lucas' injury was a tough blow. I'll have to think about his replacement.

"You can't have three players for every position in your squad, but there is obviously Theo Hernandez and other alternatives."

Olivier Giroud equalled Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record as Les Bleus fought back to begin their World Cup defence with a 4-1 victory over Australia on Tuesday.

Having lost Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and others to injury during a chaotic build-up to the tournament, France suffered another blow when Craig Goodwin fired Australia into an early lead.

But the holders responded well, with the impressive Adrien Rabiot recording a goal and an assist – the latter for Giroud – during a first-half turnaround.  

Kylian Mbappe then made the points safe with a fine glancing header before teeing up Giroud to nod home his landmark 51st goal as France took control of Group D.

Goodwin side-footed Mathew Leckie's cross into the roof of the net after nine minutes in a dream start for Australia but a quickfire France double turned the game around.

Rabiot contributed to both goals, nodding home Theo Hernandez's deep cross after 27 minutes before his cut-back allowed Giroud to tap in.

The end of an entertaining first half featured clear chances at both ends, with Mbappe firing over from close range before Jackson Irvine headed against the post.

Giroud went close to a spectacular second when he sent an acrobatic effort wide shortly after the break, while Antoine Griezmann saw a shot cleared off the goalline as France continued to press.

France finally had a deserved third goal after 68 minutes, with Mbappe diverting Ousmane Dembele's cross in off the post to clinch the win.

Mbappe sent in a fine cross for France's fourth just three minutes later, but the moment belonged to Giroud as he powered a header beyond Mathew Ryan to earn a slice of Les Bleus history.

What does it mean? Champions make strong start

France approached Tuesday's match looking to buck the recent trend of slow starts from World Cup holders – the reigning champions had only started with a win at three of the last 12 tournaments (D4 L5).

Given their chaotic preparations and Australia's early opener, Didier Deschamps may have been fearing the worst, but Les Bleus were ultimately good value for their win, which saw them take control of Group D following Denmark's draw with Tunisia.

Giroud matches Henry

Had Real Madrid's Ballon d'Or-winning forward Benzema been fit to feature against the Socceroos, Giroud would likely have been the player to miss out on a place in Deschamps' team.

However, Giroud – who played a key role in France's 2018 heroics in Russia – helped himself to a brace to draw level with Henry's tally of 51 goals for his country, hitting that number in eight fewer caps than the Arsenal great.

Rabiot takes centre stage

Injuries to Pogba and his 2018 World Cup-winning midfield partner N'Golo Kante opened the door for Rabiot to assume a central role in Qatar, and he did not let France down in their Group D opener.

Rabiot took the game by the scruff of the neck before the break, becoming the first France player to both score and assist a goal on his World Cup debut since Christophe Dugarry against South Africa in 1998

What's next?

France take on Denmark in their next Group D game on Saturday, while Australia face Tunisia on the same day.

France saw their injury crisis deepen as Bayern Munich defender Lucas Hernandez was forced off early on in Tuesday's World Cup meeting with Australia.

Didier Deschamps' side arrived in Qatar looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, but their preparations for the tournament were hampered by fitness issues.

Having already lost 2018's World Cup-winning midfield duo Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante before naming their 26-man squad for the competition, France have seen their rotten luck continue.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe was forced to withdraw from their squad after failing to recover from a hamstring injury, while RB Leipzig's in-form attacker Christopher Nkunku was ruled out of the tournament after he tore the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.

The biggest blow was still to come for Les Bleus, as Ballon d'Or winning striker Karim Benzema – who was also absent from their triumphant 2018 campaign – was forced to leave their camp after sustaining a thigh injury in training.

Hernandez became the latest France international to be stricken nine minutes into their Group D clash with Australia, going down clutching his knee after being turned by Matthew Leckie in the build-up to Craig Goodwin's opening goal.

Having limped off the pitch to be replaced by his brother Theo Hernandez, the Bayern defender may now face a battle to be fit for France's fixtures against Tunisia and Denmark.

Argentina's World Cup hopes took a shuddering blow in their Qatar 2022 opener as they were sensationally beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia.

Having won the Copa America last year and embarked on a 36-match unbeaten run, La Albiceleste arrived in Qatar as one of the favourites to be crowned world champions.

Lionel Messi's penalty gave them an early lead in their first Group C match at Lusail Stadium, but second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari ensured Saudi Arabia pulled off a huge upset.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at five of the other monumental World Cup shocks over the years.

Senegal 1-0 France (Korea/Japan 2002)

Perhaps the all-time upset in World Cup history, France headed to the 2002 edition four years on from a triumph on home soil with a squad brimming with talent and set on defending their crown.

Yet in the opening match, Les Bleus - without talisman Zinedine Zidane - were stunned by Senegal, the competition's lowest-ranked side, thanks to Papa Bouba Diop's first-half finish in Seoul.

France went on to finish bottom of Group A with just a draw against Uruguay to their name, and failing to score a single goal.

North Korea 1-0 Italy (England 1966)

Arriving in Europe for their first appearance at the World Cup, North Korea were widely expected to make an early exit after a defeat to the Soviet Union and a draw with Chile.

But Pak Doo-ik made history when his lone goal saw them shock two-time winners Italy at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough.

North Korea have only been back to the World Cup once, at South Africa 2010, where they scored once and conceded a dozen, finishing bottom of Group G.

Cameroon 1-0 Argentina (Italy 1990)

This is not the first time La Albiceleste have been involved in one of the most unexpected results at a World Cup, having been stunned in the first match of their title defence over three decades ago.

Argentina arrived at Italia 90 looking to defend the crown Diego Maradona guided them to four years prior, but Francois Omam-Biyik's 67th-minute goal at San Siro left them shell-shocked.

USA 1-0 England (Brazil 1950)

Heading into their tournament debut in South America, England were fancied to make a big impact, particularly when they came up against a United States team dominated by part-timers.

But a goal for Joe Gaetjens made history for the USA, bringing England back down to earth after they started with a 2-0 win over Chile.

Walter Winterbottom's men were then on their way home after slumping to a 1-0 loss at the hands of Spain.

Northern Ireland 1-0 Spain (Spain 1982)

Fondly remembered four decades down the line, Northern Ireland's win against tournament hosts Spain ranks among the greatest in their history, as they defied the odds in Valencia.

Gerry Armstrong's goal early in the second half put then in front and although Mal Donaghy was shown a red card, Billy Bingham's team hung on to deliver an almighty upset.

France were many people's tip heading into Qatar 2022, having been so impressive when they lifted the World Cup four years ago.

On paper, they have the sort of team that would have most players of the FIFA 23 video game drooling, or at least, they did before injuries started to pile up.

Midfield pair Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, both so crucial to their 2018 success, had already been ruled out, and in the days since head coach Didier Deschamps announced his squad, two more high-profile names have been forced to withdraw.

The loss of Christopher Nkunku was a blow despite the RB Leipzig forward being unlikely to start, his 48 goal involvements (37 goals and 11 assists) in 2022 only second to France team-mate Kylian Mbappe (57 - 43 goals and 14 assists) among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Then there was Karim Benzema's withdrawal, a significant one considering the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner scored a spectacular 44 goals in 46 games for Real Madrid in 2021-22, helping the Spanish giants win LaLiga and the Champions League.

However, if any nation can handle a double blow like that, it is surely France.

When it comes to the team selection in their opening clash with Australia, Deschamps will likely turn to the same trio he used at Russia 2018, with Mbappe alongside one or both of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

 

Giroud has extra motivation, sitting just two behind Thierry Henry (51) as Les Bleus' all-time record goalscorer.

"Obviously I've got this target, this kind of bonus in my head to beat [Henry], but the main target as a team is to go as far as we can in the competition," the Milan striker said at a press conference on Friday.

France will need to improve on recent form though, having only won one of their six games in the UEFA Nations League in June and September (D2, L3).

Their first hurdle is an Australia team that only made it to Qatar by the skin of their teeth, needing a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against Peru in a play-off to advance.

Dancing substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne was the hero that day, but head coach Graham Arnold will need inspiration from elsewhere if the Socceroos are to improve on their World Cup record.

They have been eliminated from the group stage in four of their five previous appearances, progressing only in 2006, when Arnold was assistant to Guus Hiddink.

Australia have won just 13 per cent of their matches at the World Cup (two of 16); only Bulgaria (12 per cent - three of 26) have a lower win rate among nations to play 10 or more games at the finals.

They have also suffered an injury blow of their own, with Martin Boyle pulling out after failing to recover from a knee problem. Melbourne City winger Marco Tilio has replaced him, and Arnold is backing the 21-year-old to step up.

"Marco has done everything that has been asked of him to be ready for this tournament," Arnold said. "He was an important member of our Tokyo 2020 Olympic team, he has started the A-League men's season well and he is familiar with the national team set-up and we are looking forward to what he can bring to our squad for the tournament."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

France - Kylian Mbappe

Losing players like Nkunku and Benzema is never a good thing, but the blow is softened when you can still turn to arguably the most electric attacker in world football.

Mbappe played a key role in France's World Cup success of 2018, scoring four goals in seven games in Russia. During the tournament, the young French star not only became his country's youngest ever goalscorer at a World Cup (19y 183d), but also, only the second teenager ever to score in a World Cup final after Brazilian icon Pele did so v Sweden in 1958.

He has also been near unstoppable for Paris Saint-Germain this season, with 19 goals in 20 games for the Ligue 1 giants.

Australia - Mat Ryan

Not just because Australia are likely to face a lot of shots against the world champions, but Ryan also brings experience that this side sorely need.

The former Valencia and Arsenal goalkeeper has not featured much for Copenhagen this season, with Kamil Grabara preferred, but he played all 11 of Australia's third and fourth-round matches in AFC qualifying for the World Cup.

Ryan is also set to appear in a third World Cup for Australia, the most of any goalkeeper for the nation. Should he feature in all three group games, he will move level with Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill on nine World Cup appearances, the most for the Socceroos.

PREDICTION

Unsurprisingly, France are relatively overwhelming favourites to start with a win.

According to Stats Perform's AI model, Les Bleus have a 73.4 per cent chance of taking all three points, with Australia given just a 10.6 per cent chance.

The draw comes in at 16 per cent, which cannot be discounted given France's injuries and questionable form heading into Qatar.

Graham Arnold has refused to mention the names of France's star players, including Kylian Mbappe, ahead of Australia's clash against the World Cup holders.

The Socceroos meet Les Bleus for the second successive finals, with Paul Pogba's deflected late strike sealing a narrow 2-1 win for Didier Deschamps' side in Russia four years ago.

Australia head into their Group D opener having failed to register a clean sheet in 10 previous World Cup matches against European nations, with their only clean sheet at the finals against any opposition coming in a goalless draw against Chile in 1974.

But Arnold, who was the Socceroos' assistant to Pim Verbeek at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, has tried to ease the pressure on his players.

"It's not being disrespectful at all, but I've hardly mentioned the word France," he said. "And I've hardly mentioned any of the players' names because the players know who they are,

"It's one against one, it's 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts, and it's a fight. That's what it is."

Mat Ryan, who is set to become the first Australia goalkeeper to appear at three World Cups, was between the sticks for that 2-1 defeat in 2018.

But despite the reverse, the Socceroos captain believes the experience will serve his side well four years later.

"[We] felt like we almost got a great result there against France, and we felt were quite unlucky," he reflected.

"Something that I learned that day, you've got to have the right amount of respect for the opposition, but don't be in awe of them or be overwhelmed too much.

"We're playing some very good players in a good team, but we're all human out there, and we've got a real good chance to win."

Didier Deschamps has asked for "more understanding" as France adjust to their latest injuries, but Les Bleus intend to go "full steam ahead" with the same objectives as before.

France were already without Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante for the World Cup and have now lost Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema on the eve of the tournament.

Deschamps' defending world champions head into their opener against Australia with uncertainty around much of their line-up, although the coach has "no worries at all" about Eduardo Camavinga's fitness and confirmed Raphael Varane is fit to start.

Asked on Monday if France would have to reconsider their approach to the finals, Deschamps disagreed, although he asked the assembled media for their support.

"It is full steam ahead with the team we have available to us," he said.

"Less ambition and less desire to do everything to get to the end? I don't think so. But if we could have more understanding from the media, if you could cut us a little more slack, that would be great.

"But we know what is asked of us. We are not counting our chickens before they are hatched, we know our three opponents ahead of us.

"We know Australia very well, but you haven't asked me anything about Australia. That's perfect."

Despite their difficulties, Deschamps says France have "no apprehension" and "no anxiety", even with the past three World Cup holders exiting in the first round.

"This is based on statistics, probability, facts, but I think each team has undergone their own journey to get where they are today," he said.

"It is up to us to have a squad that is aware of the objective of the first game. We're not going to think about what could have been.

"What is important is to focus on the first game against Australia. Everything before is on the sideline now.

"There is analysis that can be made, do with them what you will, but we will be ready for tomorrow."

In the absence of Benzema, Kylian Mbappe is set to have an even more prominent role, having starred in France's Russia 2018 success.

"[Mbappe] played an important role four years ago on the pitch," Deschamps said. "He was very mature at the time and is even more mature now because of what's gone on over the course of the past four years. There's been more global recognition, more responsibility.

"Obviously he has what it takes to stand out from the crowd, to score; his aura is second to none. This was the case four years ago, it still is the case now."

According to captain Hugo Lloris, Mbappe is "involved, relaxed, concentrated, focused".

Lloris was also asked about the OneLove captain's armband – a campaign that promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind".

The France skipper had already confirmed he would not be wearing the armband, and it emerged shortly after his news conference other countries were backing out of the campaign following the threat of FIFA sanctions.

"FIFA is organising this competition," Lloris said. "It is therefore up to FIFA to put into place a regulatory framework.

"As players, we're here to play football and represent our teams to the best we can on a sporting front. I would prefer to stay in my box. I am a player and a competitor of this competition.

"Yes, there are many causes that are important and should be supported. They're commendable. But it's up to FIFA to take decisions with the organisation of the competition."

Eduardo Camavinga backed Kylian Mbappe to deal with the added pressure after Karim Benzema was ruled out of the World Cup for France.

Didier Deschamps' side start their title defence in Qatar against Australia in Tuesday's Group D clash, but Les Bleus will do so without two key attacking figures.

Christopher Nkunku tore the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee after Tuesday's collision with Camavinga in training, before a thigh issue on Saturday for Benzema ruled the talisman out of the tournament.

France, who were already without Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, still have a plethora of attacking options with Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele the likely starting contenders.

Real Madrid midfielder Camavinga believes Mbappe will step up in the absence of Benzema, given the 23-year-old is already used to dealing with pressure for both France and Paris Saint-Germain.

"Kylian can do it. He is used to having everything on his back. He's used to receiving this pressure," Camavinga said. 

"I'm not worried about him. On a day-to-day basis, he seems at ease, and calm."

The attacking burden may fall upon the shoulders of Mbappe, who has scored the most goals (43) in Europe's top five leagues in 2022), but Camavinga does not expect France to lower their expectations.

"No, not necessarily, we also have a lot of big players in the squad. There are other leaders in the squad too," he added. "We're not going to lower our objectives. Of course, it's a hard blow.

"But we're not going to rest on that. We're going to continue to fight with the big squad that we have."

France centre-back Ibrahima Konate echoed team-mate Camavinga's sentiment as he urged Les Bleus to battle through injury issues in the Middle East.

"It hurts us. It's a hard blow for the French team but our objective doesn't change, it's always the same," the Liverpool defender said. 

"That's part of football. We have to deal with it and move on, not look back. We have a match coming up very quickly. If we start looking at these things, it could be complicated."

Antoine Griezmann hopes to offer "complete" performances if selected to play a more withdrawn role for France at the World Cup.

Griezmann impressed when playing behind Olivier Giroud as France won their second World Cup in 2018, with his tally of four goals in Russia only bettered by England's Harry Kane (six).

Despite Griezmann occupying a traditional striking role for Atletico Madrid, reports have suggested Didier Deschamps may deploy the 31-year-old in an advanced midfield position behind two forwards in Qatar.

While the news that Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema will miss the tournament with a thigh injury could provoke a rethink, Griezmann told Telefoot he is content to play in any position.

Asked about his role for Tuesday's Group D opener against Australia, he said: "I don't know. Otherwise, you should give me the phone number of the Australia coach and we'll give him the eleven.

"I try to be a very complete player. Whether offensively or defensively, I love getting balls back, helping my team-mates in defence. 

"For me, it's always a pleasure. No matter where I play, I try to give the maximum, to do what the team needs."

Despite nine of his 21 appearances coming from the bench, Griezmann has impressed for Atletico this season, recording six goals and four assists in all competitions.

The versatile forward was named in the World Cup Team of the Tournament four years ago, and believes he is well-placed to enjoy another positive campaign in Qatar.

"I needed a big pre-season, a good preparation," he added. "I feel I'm in great shape. I have the legs and the head is fine."

France will not call up a replacement for Karim Benzema after the Ballon d'Or winner was ruled out of the World Cup with a thigh injury, head coach Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

Deschamps' side are looking to become the first team to retain the trophy since Brazil in 1962, but they have suffered several injury blows ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

Having already seen midfielders Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante ruled out, France lost Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku after naming their 26-man squad for the competition, but the most severe blow was still to come as Benzema was forced to leave their camp after failing to complete Saturday's training session. 

With Benzema facing three weeks on the sidelines, reports suggested France would decide whether to call up another attacker on Sunday, but Deschamps is content with his existing options. 

"It's obviously a big blow. Karim had done everything, so had we. He was in the session and with an almost innocuous gesture, he felt muscle pain on the other leg," Deschamps told Telefoot.

"The exams unfortunately confirmed too much damage compared to the deadlines that await us. 

"Will he be replaced? No. We have seven to eight attacking players."

Alongside 2018 World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele, France can call upon Kingsley Coman, Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram as attacking options.

Benzema has endured a frustrating season, missing several of Real Madrid's games after sustaining a knee injury in September before being plagued by muscle fatigue in the build-up to the World Cup.

Deschamps insists France's medical staff should not shoulder the blame for his latest injury, adding: "I know that you are looking for controversy, but everything has been done [for Benzema to be fit].

"It happened in the game, not even on an acceleration or a strike. It can happen, it's never the right time, it's not a relapse. 

"He has a concern on the other side, which prevents him from staying with us. It's never fun, it doesn't make you smile. 

"We had already lost Christopher, but we have a goal, the group knows very well what awaits us. We have a quality group. I am convinced of it, I have confidence in them."

Deschamps offered a more positive update on the fitness of Raphael Varane, saying the Manchester United defender "will be available" for Tuesday's Group D opener against Australia.

Varane had been a doubt for the tournament after suffering a leg injury in the Red Devils' Premier League draw with Chelsea last month, but he completed his first collective training session since meeting up with Les Bleus on Saturday. 

France have been dealt another injury blow as Karim Benzema is out of the World Cup.

Benzema will become the first reigning Ballon d'Or winner to miss a world finals since Allan Simonsen's Denmark failed to qualify for the 1978 tournament.

The 'holders' curse' is now well established – Benzema had been hoping to help France end a sequence of three consecutive defending champions exiting in the first round – but Ballon d'Or victors have been no more fortunate.

In fact, stars entering a World Cup recognised as the world's best player have never gone home with the trophy.

While Alfredo Di Stefano's Spain, like Simonsen's Denmark, did not qualify in 1958, Benzema is the first player to be absent through injury.

But plenty of all-time greats have suffered World Cup heartache at their peak...

Eusebio (1966)

Eusebio lived up to his billing of being the best player in the world at the time by finishing as top scorer in the 1966 World Cup with nine goals. Thanks to the form of their star man, Portugal made quite the impact in their maiden tournament as they eliminated Brazil, who were without the injured Pele, but his penalty against England was not enough as the Selecao suffered semi-final heartbreak. The photo of a crestfallen Eusebio being led off the Wembley pitch remains iconic to this day, with the game being dubbed 'Jogo das Lagrimas' – the Game of Tears.

Roberto Baggio (1994)

After initially struggling to get going at USA 94 in an underwhelming group stage for Italy, Baggio finally came to life and showed why he was the world's best in the knockout rounds. The Juventus star scored late on against Nigeria to take the game to extra time and then netted the winning goal in the additional period to set up a quarter-final with Spain, against whom he also bagged the winner. That hot streak continued with two more goals against Bulgaria in the semis, yet the tournament would ultimately end in heartbreak as he skied the decisive penalty for the Azzurri against Brazil – a miss that he has had to relive over and over since that day.

Ronaldo (1998)

Entering the World Cup as a true global superstar O Fenomeno – The Phenomenon – dealt with the intense pressure by scoring three times in Brazil's run to another final, where hosts France awaited at the Parc des Princes. The showpiece is arguably best remembered more than two decades on for events prior to the match, with Ronaldo being left out of the starting line-up only to be reinstated 45 minutes before kick-off. The tale has been told countless times, though Ronaldo himself confirmed he was left out of the initial XI due to suffering a convulsion. While he won his battle to start, he could not make the impact he would have wanted as France ran out 3-0 winners in Saint-Denis.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2014 & 2018)

On the back of winning his second Champions League trophy, and the first of four with Real Madrid, Ronaldo looked in the mood to fire Portugal to a first World Cup crown. However, to say the tournament did not quite go Ronaldo and Portugal's way would be a huge understatement. The Selecao lost 4-0 to eventual competition winners Germany in their opening match and then required a 95th-minute goal to salvage a 2-2 draw against the United States. A 2-1 win over Ghana in their final match, with Ronaldo at least getting off the mark in that game, failed to prevent Portugal from crashing out in the group stage. Portugal, European champions at the time, only fared marginally better four years later with the world's best player in their ranks as they fell to Uruguay in the first knockout round.

The World Cup in Qatar is finally set to get underway, but there are a number of major players who will be watching along with the fans back home.

An unfortunate reality about the tournament is there will always be significant absences, either through a nation's failure to qualify or due to injury.

It is the latter that has been a major focus in the final week before Sunday's kick-off, with Senegal star Sadio Mane and France striker Karim Benzema both being late withdrawals from their respective squads, the latter suffering a quadriceps injury on Saturday, depriving the tournament of the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner.

Benzema's injury is just one of several significant blows for holders France, and they dominate Stats Perform's injured XI of the players unable to feature in Qatar.

Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan (France)

Maignan had a fine maiden season at Milan after joining from Lille. He kept 17 clean sheets in Serie A last term, the highest tally in the league, and conceded just 21 goals, with his save percentage of 79.4 the best of any Serie A goalkeeper to play more than 10 games in the competition.

He has made seven appearances this season, but the 27-year-old suffered a calf injury in October, leaving Didier Deschamps shorn of a quality shot-stopper to challenge Hugo Lloris.

 

Defence: Ben Chilwell (England), Reece James (England), Presnel Kimpembe (France)

Chelsea duo Reece James and Ben Chilwell were by no means guaranteed to start for England, but it's still a blow to Gareth Southgate not to have the pair available.

James has excelled at wing-back and would have been an ideal fit if England stick with a three-man defence, while he could also have slotted in at centre-back, and Chilwell would likely offer more attacking threat than Luke Shaw on the left should the Three Lions have needed to chase a game.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe helped France win the 2018 World Cup, but he had to withdraw from Deschamps' squad for Qatar due to an Achilles problem.

Midfield: N'Golo Kante (France), Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina), Paul Pogba (France), Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands)

Giovani Lo Celso was not always a key player for Tottenham but retained his place as a crucial cog for Argentina. La Albiceleste will be without the midfielder, who sustained a hamstring injury while playing for Villarreal against Athletic Bilbao late in October.

Georginio Wijnaldum scored three goals in four games for the Netherlands at Euro 2020, but shortly after joining Roma on loan from PSG, the former Liverpool midfielder suffered a fractured tibia and had no chance of recovering in time to make Louis van Gaal's squad.

Another two France stars complete the midfield, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante missing for Les Bleus. Both players were exceptional in 2018, but Kante is out with a hamstring problem, while Pogba is yet to make an appearance for Juventus this season after joining from Manchester United.

 

Attack: Karim Benzema (France), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Christopher Nkunku (France)

It's fair to say France have been hit hardest by injuries to big players, and there could arguably be none bigger than Benzema, the Ballon d'Or holder. Given he is 34, it could well have been the Real Madrid striker's final shot at a World Cup and is a huge blow not only to France but to football fans around the world who were highly anticipating the Benzema-Kylian Mbappe link-up.

A player who might have softened the blow of Benzema's injury was Christopher Nkunku, had he not already been ruled out himself with a knee issue sustained in training last week, just before Les Bleus left for Qatar. Nkunku has been in sensational form for RB Leipzig, with only Mbappe of players from Europe's top five leagues having scored more goals (58) since the start of last season than the RB Leipzig star, who has amassed 52 in 75 games.

Mane, meanwhile, was carrying the hopes of Senegal on his shoulders. The Africa Cup of Nations holders have a talented squad, but Mane was the stardust. He went down with an injury to his fibula while in action for Bayern Munich just before the World Cup break, and though Senegal named the ex-Liverpool attacker in their squad, he underwent surgery earlier this week and was duly ruled out.

 

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