Blow for France, Qatar 2022: Benzema ruled out of World Cup

The Herald

DOHA. —  Karim Benzema is out of the FIFA World Cup. It may have been coming but it’s still shocking. The official ‘’best player on the planet’’ won’t play any part in Qatar 2022.

Love him or loathe him, the striker has been the best player in the world in 2022 and deserved to grace the game’s grandest stage one more time.

We knew he was a doubt for France’s opening game against Australia but then rumours began to circulate late on Saturday night that his whole tournament was in doubt.

Official confirmation arrived after midnight in Doha. “Karim Benzema has pulled out of the World Cup with a thigh injury,” read the statement posted on Twitter.

“The whole team shares Karim’s disappointment and wishes him a speedy recovery.”  Short, but not so sweet. Certainly not for Benzema. Or France for that matter.

Benzema, infamously, wasn’t a part of the triumphant World Cup campaign in Russia four years ago, having been ditched in the lead-up to Euro 2016 because of his involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape scandal.

The seriousness of that case should not be forgotten. The French Prime Minister at the time even got involved.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Manuel Valls said. “If he is not, he has no place in the France team.”

And so Benzema was exiled as the legal proceedings rumbled on.

In November last year, he was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail Valbuena, but by that point he had already been welcomed back into the national team squad, proving to be one of France’s few inspired performers in an otherwise disappointing Euro 2020 campaign.

He carried that form into the 2021-22 season, inspiring one miraculous fightback after another as Madrid won the Champions League.

After years of playing the role of best supporting actor to Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema was now the team’s undisputed star.

It was inevitable that he would literally take centre stage at October’s Ballon d’Or ceremony.

Sadio Mane and Kevin De Bruyne had fine years but Benzema’s victory was a formality. He had been a cut above every other contender. “There was a difficult period where I wasn’t in the French team but I never stopped working hard or gave up,” he said that night.

“I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy. It was difficult.

“To be here today for the first time, I am happy, pleased with my work and I want to keep going.”

He made no secret of the fact that Qatar 2022 was meant to be the closing act of what he viewed as an inspiring tale of redemption.  —


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