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Qatar 2022 World Cup: What is the ‘curse of the champion’ that France should be worried about?

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema has been ruled out for France, who will play in Group D alongside Australia, Denmark and Tunisia.

TOPSHOT - France's forward Kylian Mbappe kisses the World Cup trophy after the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORI

France are hoping to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup trophies since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. Didier Deschamps’ side have been hit by injuries to key players ahead of the tournament as they prepare to retain the Jules Remit Trophy in Qatar.

Les Bleus have played three of the past six World Cup finals, winning two. However, four of the past five world champions have been knocked out of the subsequent tournament in the first round, including France in 2002, after they won France ‘98. On that occasion, France beat favourites Brazil 3-0 on home soil thanks to a Zinedine Zidane brace and a late goal from Emmanuel Petit.

No Benzema, Kante or Pogba

In midfield, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté will both be absent. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema has also been ruled out for the side who will play in Group D alongside Australia, Denmark and Tunisia.

Deschamps will have to rely on the less experienced midfield of Aurélien Tchouaméni, 22, and possibly Eduardo Camavinga, 20, to run the middle third of the pitch. The pair have built a closer relationship on and off the field since the former joined Real Madrid in the summer on a six-year deal.

Looking to Griezmann and Mbappé

In attack, there will be more experience to bank on, despite the recent injury to Benzema. Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé will aim to carry their country to the latter stages of the tournament.

The French have suffered three defeats in 2022, but will be expected to advance from their group. Brazil and Argentina are the favourites to win in Qatar and it could be more than a curse that holds the French back from retaining the World Cup.

France’s schedule and group in the 2022 World Cup

Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia

November 22

2:00 pm ET France - Australia

November 26

11:00 am ET France - Denmark

November 30

10:00 am ET Tunisia - France


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