DOHA, Qatar — Karim Benzema left the Al Messila Hotel, the luxurious residence where the French national team was staying, before 7 a.m. Sunday. At 8:08 a.m., he took a Qatar Airways flight to Madrid and returned to his home in the Spanish capital by 2 p.m. local time. This is how his 2022 World Championship ended: ended before the competition even started.

Not all of his teammates also properly said goodbye: Benzema did not return to his room until late Saturday, after being scanned at Aspetar Hospital in Doha, after everyone had gone to bed, and he left when the team woke up on Sunday morning. Eduardo Camavinga, his teammate at Real Madrid, told the media that he had exchanged text messages with Benzema and that the striker was absolutely devastated. Wouldn’t you feel the same?

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When Sportzshala spoke to the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner in Paris on Monday, he smiled broadly as he said he felt good and was looking forward to playing in the tournament to help Blues defend the world title they won in Russia four years ago. Fast forward less than a week and he was out of it all without playing a minute. He waited eight years to play another World Cup after being part of the 2014 squad that reached the quarter-finals and missed out on Russia. Benzema turns 35 next month, so this will most likely be his last chance. After the disappointment in Doha, he will hope that this does not happen.

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The squad felt a little knocked out and almost stunned by the news. With so many key players leaving before the rosters were announced, it was hard to accept that they were losing another key player.

Goalkeeper Mike Meignan and midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante have been ruled out in recent weeks, just last week defender Prenel Kimpembe, midfielder Christopher Nkunku and now Benzema have been ruled out. These are four starting players (Pogba, Kante, Kimpembe, Benzema), the best substitute goalkeeper (Meinan) and a versatile striker who will be your first replacement (Nkunku) if you chase or control the game. Coach Didier Deschamps decided not to replace Benzema and keep 25 players. The reason is that every player is now on vacation with their families, most of them enjoying exotic places like Miami or Dubai, and they don’t have enough time to physically prepare for the harsh conditions of the World Cup.

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Along with the psychological impact of these injuries, the team’s defeats and Deschamps’ preparation for the tournament, they completely changed the dynamic. Playing with Olivier Giroud in attack is very different from playing with No. 9 Benzema: the latter loves the freedom of the role, playing both a creator and a striker, while Giroud is more like a traditional centre-forward, great in defense. to the gate and as a support. Blues definitely know how to play with Giroud, who was an important part of their winning team in 2018, although he didn’t score in Russia, and players like Mbappe and Griezmann get along well with him.

As for the AC Milan striker, Benzema’s injury marks another outstanding turn in his incredible career. A few weeks ago, Deschamps did not want to challenge Giroud to the World Cup. Now he starts and must get every chance to fulfill his cherished dream – to catch up and overtake Thierry Henry, becoming the top scorer among men in the history of the French national team. Giroud has 49 (114 games, or 0.43 goals per game) and Henry has 51 (123 games, or 0.41 goals per game), so history could be made in Doha this winter.

Regardless of Giroud’s performances, Benzema’s absence means Mbappe needs to step up even more. If France wants to succeed, he must take the lead, lead and succeed. This is the stage he wants and always wanted. So this is his chance to show the world that the amazing kid from 2018, the only teenager (besides Pele) to score in a World Cup final, is now an established world-class superstar who will make a difference in the tournament. like this. The big scenes belong to the big players, so let’s see, Kylian.

France will play Australia on Tuesday to kick off the competition, just like they did in 2018. This may be a good omen, but equally a trap. They will be aggressive and physical, trying to make the most of set pieces and not give France any space. It is not easy to start with this, especially after the drama of Benzema.

Deschamps’ message to the players was to use the frustration of those absentees to become stronger as a group, become more cohesive, and engage their combat mentality. They owe it to these stars who helped them get to this World Cup just to watch from home.