The Real Madrid frontman was believed to be on a bespoke recovery plan after suffering knee and hamstring issues and barely featuring at club level in the month before the mid-season break, playing just 26 minutes in total, with Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps initially expressing optimism over his readiness for the competition.
However, French medics were reportedly unable to get to the bottom of those injuries, with Benzema previously considered a key doubt for France’s Group D opener against Australia in Al-Wakrah on Tuesday evening.
ESPN then reported that the 34-year-old was actually in danger of missing the whole World Cup due to a new left thigh problem suffered while sprinting during a training session on Saturday.
The report added that Benzema was to go for a scan to determine the severity of that latest injury, with concerns over sitting out the tournament in full having been sparked by an initial negative prognosis from France’s medical team.
France later confirmed that their worst fears had been realised in a short statement released on Saturday night.
“Hit in the quadriceps of the left thigh, Karim Benzema is forced to give up participating in the World Cup,” the French Football Federation (FFF) said via Twitter.
“The whole team shares Karim's sadness and wishes him a speedy recovery.”
Manager Deschamps added: “I am extremely sad for Karim who made this World Cup a major goal. Despite this new blow for the French team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to meet the huge challenge that awaits us.”
Benzema reacted to the news with his own Instagram message, which read: “In my life I never give up but tonight I have to think about the team like I always do. So the reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our team to make a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support."
Deschamps will loathe to be without Benzema, who has become an influential figure since returning to the international arena for Euro 2020 after almost six years away and will likely not get another World Cup chance, considering he will be 38 by the time the 2026 edition arrives.
He has 37 goals in 97 senior caps and scored six times in 12 appearances for Madrid in the first half of the season, winning the prestigious Ballon d’Or award for the first time in his career last month after an astonishing 2021/22 campaign in which he notched 44 times in 46 outings to help Madrid to a memorable Champions League and LaLiga double.
Defending champions France are already without some notable players in Qatar due to injury including N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Presnel Kimpembe, while they lost RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku to a torn knee ligmament suffered in their final training session before flying to Qatar earlier this week.
The man who finished as runner-up behind Benzema in the Ballon d’Or voting this year, Senegal’s Sadio Mane, has also been ruled out of the World Cup after undergoing surgery on a knee injury suffered while playing for Bayern Munich.