Defending champions France have been hit with another huge injury blow with Karim Benzema ruled out of the whole World Cup as they today begin their defence against Australia on Tuesday.
Knee and hamstring complaints have led to Les Bleus putting the Real Madrid forward on a tailored recovery plan ahead of Tuesday’s Group D opener against Australia.
However, a fresh thigh tear suffered in training on Saturday sadly ended Benzema’s World Cup hopes, with France confirming the Ballon d’Or winner will not take part in the tournament.
Raphael Varane is another entrepreneurial individual who has been called up despite his own injury. Didier Deschamps already misses Christopher Nkunku, Presnel Kimpembe, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante due to injuries during the World Cup.
Benzema’s absence could lead to a starting position for Olivier Giroud, although Deschamps has revealed plans to move away from his previous 3-4-1-2 formation which paired the striker up front with Kylian Mbappe.
In a plan to play four at the back, brothers Theo and Lucas Hernandez will compete for the left-back spot with France preparing for a 4-3-3 formation with Mbappe deployed as a roaming winger.
Arsenal defender William Saliba is in contention to form a defensive partnership in Varane’s possible absence, alongside Jules Kounde, Dayot Upamecano or Ibrahima Konate.
Predicted France XI:
Lloris; Pavard, Saliba, Kounde, L. Hernandez; Tchouameni, Veretout, Camavinga; Dembele, Giroud, Mbappe.
Australia Team News
There have been suggestions that Arnold will opt for a back three to quell France’s attacking firepower, and that could see winger Craig Goodwin redeployed as a left wing-back, and either Milos Degenek or Thomas Dengto be drafted in alongside Rowles and Souttar.
Hrustic, Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine are the candidates most likely to play in the Australia midfield, with Hrustic playing in the number 10 role behind strikers Mitch Duke and Jamie Maclaren. Keep an eye on Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol to make an impact off the bench.
projected Australia XI:
1. Ryan (GK) — 2. Degenek, 19. Souttar, 4. Rowles — 3. Atkinson, 13. Mooy, 22. Irvine, 23. Goodwin, 10. Hrustic — 15. Duke, 9. Maclaren