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Former Uruguay captain and Paris Saint-Germain star Diego Lugano claims to be ‘certain’ that some members of France’s World Cup squad will be glad to see the back of Karim Benzema. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner was recently struck down by injury, ruining his chances of featuring in Qatar.
Benzema was expected to feature prominently at the tournament, having just been awarded the highest individual accolade in football for his exploits in 2022. Knee and hamstring issues hampered his preparation and he was ruled out for good last week after tearing a muscle in his thigh.
Naturally, that came as a massive blow for the World Cup holders, having already suffered injury setbacks involving Christopher Nkunku, Presnel Kimpembe and others. At least that’s true on the face of things, but Lugano believes that some in France’s ranks will be happy to have Benzema out of the way.
Lugano spent two years with PSG between 2011 and 2013 and he captained Uruguay at two World Cups. “I am certain, because I was a team-mate to some [France players] that they are very happy with the departure of Benzema,” he told ESPN, via Sport.
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“[That kind of reaction] would never happen in Uruguay, Brazil or Argentina. It depends a lot on the way the team was put together and on the care that the coach has with the player profiles, not only technical, but personality. It has a lot to do with that.”
The French squad has often been the site of World Cup controversy as arguments tainted their ill-fated 2010 World Cup campaign, which saw them crash out in the group stages without winning a single game. The star of France’s current squad, Kylian Mbappe, has been reported to open up divisions in the PSG dressing room.
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In Qatar, many expect Mbappe to come up with the goods for Les Bleus, having starred as a teenager four years ago in Russia. France powered all the way to World Cup victory in 2018 and they’re one of the most-fancied nations this time around too, despite the injury issues that have hampered Didier Deschamps’ plans.
Their bid to reach the knockout rounds in Qatar will begin with a Group D clash against Australia on Tuesday, before subsequent group-stage matches against Denmark and Tunisia. Despite the likes of Anthony Martial and Moussa Diaby waiting to be called up as Benzema’s replacement, Deschamps controversially opted to leave the squad as is.
“It’s obviously a big blow to lose Karim,” the France boss explained to Telefoot at the weekend. “He had done everything [to be available], so had we.
“He was in a session and felt pain in his other leg after an innocuous action. The scans confirmed that unfortunately it is too big a strain compared to the schedule that awaits us. Will he be replaced? No.”
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