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.

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."

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.

 

Karim Benzema insisted it was not in his nature to "give up" as he was forced to concede his World Cup dream with France was over.

A quadriceps problem in his left thigh has flared up and left the 34-year-old resigned to packing his bags rather than contributing for Les Bleus in Qatar.

He won the highly prized Ballon d'Or award last month, recognition of his spectacular form last season, but Benzema will be on the outside looking in on football's biggest show after suffering a setback in France's training session on Saturday.

It had been his first full on-pitch activity with the France squad during the pre-tournament camp, with Benzema having been determined to prove his fitness before the team's opening game against Australia on Tuesday.

He had been bothered by muscular fatigue in the left quadriceps while with Real Madrid in recent weeks, missing several games, and this latest blow may be a recurrence of that problem.

France have the option to call in a replacement for Benzema, who faces around three weeks of recovery. That time span suggests Benzema could have been fit in time to contribute before the end of the World Cup, but it was agreed he should be withdrawn from the squad.

Reports said France would decide whether to summon an additional player on Sunday.

Benzema wrote on Twitter and Instagram: "In my life I never give up but tonight I have to think about the team like I always do, so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our team to have a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support."

International team-mate and fellow superstar striker Kylian Mbappe replied by writing "Force", which translates to "Strength".

France and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele was another to send a message of support, as was Presnel Kimpembe, the defender who withdrew from the squad at the start of the week due to his own injury.

Benzema's Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo, a member of Brazil's squad, wrote: "The best must compete in the best. You will be missed in the World Cup... Good recovery KB9!"

Didier Deschamps vowed the show must go on for France after the latest crushing blow to their World Cup hopes saw Karim Benzema ruled out of the tournament.

Pain in the quadriceps of his left thigh – a femoral rectus injury to be exact – means Real Madrid's Ballon d'Or winner will play no part in the Qatar 2022 finals.

Benzema, who missed Les Bleus' triumph at Russia 2018 while out of favour amid an ongoing blackmail investigation, was hoping to play a big part in the trophy defence this time.

He was battling to prove his fitness after recent injury strife with Madrid, and Saturday's training session was his first full on-pitch activity with the France squad of this camp.

The 34-year-old could not make it through unscathed though, pulling out after feeling discomfort. He had been bothered by muscular fatigue in the left quadriceps while with his club, and this may be a recurrence of that problem.

Benzema underwent an MRI at a Doha hospital, the French Football Federation said, and he faces three weeks of recovery. He has been withdrawn from France's squad, with Deschamps able to call in a replacement.

Deschamps said: "I'm extremely sorry for Karim who had made this World Cup a major objective."

World Cup holders France begin their defence on Tuesday against Australia, before also going up against Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.

Deschamps has Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud as outstanding forward options, but the loss of Benzema is nevertheless a significant blow. It follows France also losing RB Leipzig's prolific Christopher Nkunku this week due to knee ligament damage sustained in training.

They are also without star midfielders Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante because of injury, and must be wondering what the coming weeks have in store for them.

Deschamps is determined to strike a positive note, saying: "Despite this new blow, I have every confidence in my squad. We are going to do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us."

Karim Benzema will miss the World Cup after the France striker suffered an injury blow on the eve of the tournament.

The Real Madrid captain, who missed Les Bleus' triumph at Russia 2018 while out of favour amid an ongoing blackmail investigation, was set to play a big part this time for Didier Deschamps' team.

Benzema won the Ballon d'Or last month after a spectacular 2021-22 season that saw him score 44 goals in 46 games for Madrid, helping the Spanish giants win LaLiga and the Champions League.

However, he has been troubled by physical setbacks this term and the most untimely and crushing of all blows for the 34-year-old came on the day before Qatar 2022 was set to get under way.

Benzema only resumed full training with France on Saturday, after recent muscle trouble, but he could not complete the squad session due to injury.

He underwent tests that produced results ruling him out of the tournament.

The French Football Federation said in a statement: "Karim Benzema has pulled out of the World Cup with a thigh injury. The whole team shares Karim's disappointment and wishes him a speedy recovery."

The former Lyon frontman was troubled by a knee blow earlier this season before missing further fixtures for Madrid after suffering from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps, with Saturday's blow seemingly a recurrence of that.

World Cup holders France begin their defence on Tuesday against Australia, before also tackling Denmark and Tunisia in Group D on November 26 and 30 respectively.

Benzema's absence from the tournament is the latest in a line of major setbacks for France, even though coach Deschamps also has the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud as forward options.

RB Leipzig's prolific Christopher Nkunku was forced to pull out of the squad this week after suffering knee ligament damage in a training collision with Eduardo Camavinga.

They also lost star midfielders Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, who would have been central to Deschamps' plans.

Karim Benzema has suffered an apparent injury setback on the eve of the Qatar World Cup, French media reported on Saturday.

The Ballon d'Or winner and Real Madrid superstar only resumed full training with Les Bleus this weekend but could not complete the session with Didier Deschamps' team.

L'Equipe and RMC Sport reported Benzema was forced out by injury, with no initial indication of how serious the problem might be.

Benzema was troubled by a knee injury earlier this season before missing further fixtures for Madrid after suffering from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps.

World Cup holders France begin their defence on Tuesday against Australia, before also tackling Denmark and Tunisia in Group D on November 26 and 30 respectively.

Benzema's absence from the tournament, should it come to that, would be a major blow to France, even though coach Deschamps also has the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud as forward options.

RB Leipzig's prolific Christopher Nkunku was forced to pull out of the squad this week after suffering knee ligament damage in a training collision with Eduardo Camavinga.

Youssouf Fofana says he "will do everything" possible to earn a place in France's starting line-up at the World Cup in Qatar.

Fofana only made his France debut against Austria in September, but his impressive form in Ligue 1 for Monaco was enough to earn him a spot in Didier Deschamps' 26-man squad for the tournament.

Injuries to fellow midfielders Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante mean he may even start for the reigning world champions, potentially alongside former team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni.

The 22-year-old says he will do all he can to receive a place among France's starters for their opening match against Australia on Tuesday.

"As a newcomer [to the squad], we come to discover this great competition," Fofana told reporters. "Whether you are 23 or 30, the first World Cup is always important.

"As a competitor, I will do everything to earn my place in the 11, like the 26, but always with respect for my teammates."

Fofana's late charge into the squad may induce questions of whether he is up to the required standard to play at a World Cup for France, but the 22-year-old feels his performances speak for themselves.

"As I said, it's on the field that speaks," Fofana added. "The coach validated me. After the first game [debut against Austria], everyone validated me too!

"I no longer have time to tell myself whether I am happy or proud. The competition starts in two days.

"Two major players are absent [Pogba and Kante], but they also started in the France team one day. There is a beginning for everything."

France received a boost on Saturday as Raphael Varane returned to full training on Saturday.

After their match with Australia, Deschamps' men will take on Denmark and Tunisia in Group D as they look to retain their World Cup crown.

Karim Benzema is "doing so much better" as he battles to be 100 per cent fit for France's World Cup campaign, according to his Real Madrid team-mate Eduardo Camavinga.

Benzema won his first Ballon d'Or last month after leading Real Madrid to glory in LaLiga and the Champions League in the 2021-22 season, but has endured an injury-hit campaign to date.

The striker has started 11 games in all competitions this season, scoring six goals, but he spent time on the sidelines with a knee injury before missing further fixtures after suffering from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps.

However, with less than a week remaining until France begin their Group D campaign against Australia, Camavinga is enthused by his team-mate's recovery.

"He's getting better. He's doing so much better," Camavinga told RMC Sport. "I have a very good relationship with him, he helps me a lot at Real Madrid. 

"He is a very great player who deserves what is happening to him. I hope he will be ready for the World Cup.

"Sometimes in a match he comes to see me and tells me, 'If I have the ball you are going to do this run or this run', so he gives me advice at the right moment. 

"He also tells me when to stay in position. He is very good at communicating, he is a leader."

France are looking to become the first nation to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, but Didier Deschamps' team have been beset by bad luck on the injury front, with N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba missing the tournament.

With those two veterans of the 2018 World Cup win absent, Camavinga could partner Madrid team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni in a new-look France midfield, but he has no reservations over their lack of experience. 

"Critics are part of life. We don't have the same experience, but we are keen to show what we are worth," Camavinga added.

"With our enthusiasm and the experience of the elders, it can make a good mix."

Meanwhile, Deschamps has called up Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani after Christopher Nkunku suffered an injury on Tuesday.

Nkunku was ruled out of the World Cup after limping out of training with a leg injury, but his absence has given Muani – the scorer of eight goals for Eintracht this term – the opportunity to feature at his first major tournament.

Christopher Nkunku gave France an injury scare ahead of the World Cup when he hobbled out of a training session on Tuesday.

The RB Leipzig forward, who has been in outstanding form for his club, took a knock that left him in obvious pain and required team staff to help him off the field.

Nkunku suffered the blow in a challenge with Eduardo Camavinga as they contested a 50-50 ball, with head coach Didier Deschamps among those who went to his aid.

Deschamps will want Nkunku to be fit to make the trip to Qatar, with France due to depart for their Doha base on Wednesday.

Reports in France said Nkunku would undergo tests to check he had not suffered any significant damage to his left leg, with the player said to be optimistic he would be fine.

Defending champions France begin their World Cup Group D campaign against Australia on November 22, before tackling Denmark and Tunisia.

Nkunku has scored 17 goals and provided two assists in 23 games for Leipzig this season.

Among players from Europe's top five leagues – the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A – only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe has managed more combined goals and assists since the beginning of 2022 than Nkunku.

Nkunku has achieved a total of 48 goal involvements (37 goals and 11 assists) in the calendar year, with Mbappe leading the way on 57 (43 goals and 14 assists).

Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, working their way back from injuries, played a limited part in Tuesday's training session.

Karim Benzema will do everything he can to be 100 per cent fit for the World Cup after making France's squad for the tournament amid an injury-hit season, says Didier Deschamps.

Benzema won his first Ballon d'Or after leading Real Madrid to glory in LaLiga and the Champions League by scoring 44 goals last term, but has endured a frustrating 2022-23 campaign to date.

The striker has started just 11 games in all competitions this season, hitting the net six times, and Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said the 34-year-old was "struggling" on Sunday after he suffered from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps. 

However, Benzema will join the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud among France's attacking options in Qatar, and Deschamps hopes he will be in peak condition.

"Benzema has had a few minor injuries, but he knows that the World Cup is a very important moment," Deschamps said after revealing his 25-man squad on Wednesday. 

"He will do everything, like the whole group, to be 100 per cent."

Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has also been included despite sustaining a leg injury in the Red Devils' Premier League draw at Chelsea last month, and Deschamps is optimistic regarding his chances of facing Australia in the team's Group D opener on November 22. 

"Presnel [Kimpembe] had a little problem but he will be available for the last league game on Sunday," Deschamps said.

"For Varane, it's a longer injury, but he will be available for the first game against Australia on the 22nd, if all goes well."

The World Cup holders will head to Qatar with a depleted set of midfield options after Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante were ruled out, while left-backs Ferland Mendy and Lucas Digne, as well as Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan – who suffered a calf injury in September – are among the other notable absentees.

France will be captained by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in Qatar, whose inclusion in a fourth World Cup squad sees him equal the national record set by Thierry Henry (in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments).

France World Cup squad: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes); Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille); Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Milan), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has quelled suggestions that Karim Benzema is unavailable for club action in order to keep him fit for the World Cup.

The France international is set to represent the defending champions in Qatar but enters the tournament with a lack of minutes, having last appeared domestically against Elche on October 19.

Those fitness issues will once again keep Benzema absent from Thursday's trip to Cadiz, the final game before Qatar 2022, where Madrid are looking to bounce back after a surprise defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Monday.

Benzema's recent absence has not resulted in any concerns that he could be missing for France, leading to suggestions that he may just be being rested to ensure he does not get injured ahead of the tournament.

But Ancelotti denied that was the case.

"It has bothered me that he has not been able to help us with his quality - he has tried but he has not been able to come back from this small thing, so he is not available," Ancelotti said in Wednesday's press conference.

"I don't have to say anything to anyone. The first disappointed person is Karim, who arrives at the World Cup without the necessary minutes to be in good condition.

"To think that he has been rested, I do not believe it, it is silly. He has not stopped; he has trained alone, but the feelings he had were not good.

"It means he arrives at the World Cup with few minutes in his legs."

Asked whether Benzema ever felt his World Cup involvement was in doubt, Ancelotti added: "No, apart from that big injury against Celtic, it's been two small things."

Madrid's defeat last time out leaves the defending LaLiga champions five points adrift of leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, and Ancelotti highlighted a drop in intensity as the reason for his side's decline.

He added: "If you lower intensity against teams that do not play in Europe, such as Rayo, they can be at a higher level than the rest.

"It's less noticeable when you're playing against teams that do play in Europe."

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