Karim Benzema explains World Cup withdrawal

Karim Benzema has revealed “reason” made him quit France’s World Cup squad due to persistent injury issues.

The Ballon d’Or holder missed Real Madrid’s final five games before the winter break due to fitness problems and tore his left quadriceps while running during his return to Les Bleus training.

He posted on Twitter: “In my life I have never given up but tonight I have to think about the team as I have always done so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our group make a good World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”

Benzema’s absence leaves manager Didier Deschamps needing to call up one more player to make his squad the full 26-player contingent again, with their first World Cup group game coming against Australia on Monday.

Deschamps added: “I am extremely sad for Karim who had made this World Cup a major objective of his. Despite this latest blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my squad. We will do everything to meet the immense challenge that awaits us.”

Benzema’s injury will likely see France return to the front three of Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe who led the nation to glory in Russia four years ago, but it’s another injury absentee for a side whose preparation has been dogged by fitness complaints.

Midfielder N’Golo Kante underwent surgery in October and won’t return to action until the new year, while Paul Pogba is yet to play a minute for Juventus this season. Mike Maignan, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku are also unavailable.