PARIS (AP) — Defending champion France’s World Cup injury worries continued as forward Christopher Nkunku was injured in the team’s training session and replaced by Randal Kolo Muani on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Nkunku went down clutching his left leg after a tackle from midfielder Eduardo Camavinga during training moments before the end of Tuesday evening’s session. Kolo Muani was selected as his replacement shortly before the team flew out to Qatar, the French soccer federation said in a statement.
The federation did not say what Nkunku’s injury was but images showed him clutching his left knee following the tackle and then limping off.
Nkunku was named the best player in Germany’s Bundesliga last season after scoring 35 goals overall and providing 14 league assists for Leipzig. He’d netted 17 goals in 23 games this season.
Kolo Muani has made a decent start since joining Eintracht Frankfurt from French Cup winner Nantes in the offseason. He has made two international appearances for France.
Coach Didier Deschamps is already missing midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, who helped France win the World Cup four years ago. Central defender Presnel Kimpembe pulled out Monday after failing to sufficiently recover from a six-week layoff following a hamstring injury.
Deschamps has an anxious wait to see if his best central defender, Raphael Varane, is fit to face Australia on Nov. 22 — exactly a month since he limped off for Manchester United with a hamstring injury.
There’s also continuing doubt about Karim Benzema’s fitness. Since winning the Ballon d’Or last month, Benzema has played fewer than 30 minutes for Real Madrid coming off the bench in a Champions League game.
But he gave reassuring news in an extract of an interview with L’Equipe’s television channel, which is set to air on Sunday.
“I’m fine. I had a bit of pain but no tear and no serious injury. I could have played (for Madrid) but I wasn’t at 100 percent,” he told L’Equipe TV. “It wasn’t a case of taking or not taking any risks, it’s just that I wasn’t at 100 percent. Since then I’ve been working well in the gym. I’ve been running, stretching, so it’s fine.”
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