France head coach Didier Deschamps has ruled out a shock World Cup final return for Karim Benzema.
The Real Madrid striker was forced to withdraw from the France squad on the eve of the tournament in Qatar due to a thigh injury.
Since then, he has returned to training with the La Liga outfit and featured in a friendly earlier in the week, prompting speculation he could yet return to the Middle East for Sunday’s final against Argentina.
Because his injury occurred so close to the start of the finals, a replacement could not be called up and so Benzema is still registered as one of the initial 26-strong pool available to Deschamps – who refused to answer a question on a potential return following the 2-0 semi-final win over Morocco.
Illness has spread through the France camp in the days leading up to the final but Deschamps said he will only be working with the 24 players currently in the squad, full-back Lucas Hernandez having been injured in the group-stage win over Australia.
“I know that some players have been injured, Karim Benzema is one of those, Lucas Hernandez got injured in the fist game and from that point onwards I’ve got 24 players in my squad,” Deschamps said.
“They are the players at my disposal. So I don’t think it is fair to those players to ask about players who aren’t here.
“It is not up to me to decide who comes to watch the game, former players or injured players, it really isn’t up to me.
“I focus on my squad and the players at my disposal. I lost those players form my squad even though they were in it to begin with.”
Benzema has scored 37 goals in 97 caps for France but has a chequered history with the national team, having not been called up between 2015 and 2021.
The 34-year-old posted a cryptic message on Instagram on Friday – a selfie with the words ‘I don’t care’ as the caption.
Deschamps admits the romance of Lionel Messi leading Argentina to glory at his final World Cup means he and his players have to accept the role of outsiders.
“I often get that feeling but I’m fine being alone, it doesn’t bother me,” said the 54-year-old, who led France to victory in Russia four years ago and captained the team in 1998.
“These uncertainties always arrive. We are here and we have done everything we can to be well prepared for tomorrow’s game against Argentina.
“In a World Cup final especially, if you have the match and a whole context behind that, the objective is to come out with the title.
“I know that Argentina and many people around the world, even some French people as well, hope that Lionel Messi will win the World Cup – but we are going to do everything to achieve our objective.”
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