AL KHOR, Qatar — France coach Didier Deschamps refused to confirm Wednesday a report that star forward Karim Benzema could rejoin Les Bleus in Qatar before they take on Argentina in the World Cup Final on Sunday (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).
Spanish outlet Marca claimed Tuesday that the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner has returned to full training with Real Madrid, which he helped win the UEFA Champions League earlier this year, meaning there’s a possibility he’ll at least be in attendance for Sunday’s final. Benzema was originally named to Deschamps’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup but was injured before France played its first game of the tournament. But he was never replaced from the roster, which makes him eligible to return.
Asked by FOX Sports following Les Bleus 2-0 semifinal win over Morocco if Benzema was en route back to the World Cup, Deschamps politely declined to say whether the report was true. But he also didn’t deny it.
“I don’t really want to answer that question,” Deschamps said following a long pause. “Next question. I do apologize.”
Deschamps said Nov. 29 that Benzema wouldn’t come back.
Besides Benzema’s status as one the world’s most prolific strikers, one reason for Deschamps’ potential about-face is the fact France’s camp has been ravaged by illness in recent days. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot and defender Dayot Upamecano didn’t train on Tuesday. Word is winger Kingsley Coman is also sick. None of them played against Morocco. Rabiot wasn’t even on the substitutes bench.
“We’ve had a few cases of with flu-like symptoms,” Deschamps said. “We’re all trying to be careful so that it doesn’t spread.”
If France can beat Lionel Messi’s Albiceleste on Sunday and repeat as world champions, something only two nations have done before at the quadrennial event and none since Brazil six decades ago, it would mark Benzema’s first World Cup title. Benzema was left off of France’s team in 2018 after he was banned from international play for allegedly blackmailing French teammate Matthieu Valbuena. Benzema wasn’t summoned to the national team again until June 2021, almost six years after his last call-up, despite being arguably France’s best forward.
Benzema has won plenty of trophies in his illustrious career, including five Champions League titles. But the World Cup would undoubtedly be his crown jewel — especially since this is likely the last chance for the soon-to-be 35-year-old.
Benzema has scored six goals in all competitions this season.
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Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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