Didier Deschamps branded questions regarding a potential return for Karim Benzema to the France squad as “awkward” ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final against Argentina.
France beat Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday to set up a mouth-watering showdown with Argentina. Straight away, there was plenty of talk around Kylian Mbappe’s battle with PSG team-mate Lionel Messi in the final, but also rumours began to emerge about a shock return for striker Karim Benzema.
The Real Madrid forward was ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a thigh injury in France’s first training session in Qatar.
Deschamps did not replace him in the squad and it was thought the Real Madrid striker could be available for selection, if he was deemed fit enough.
In his post-match press conference after the semi-final win against Morocco, Deschamps refused to rule out what would be a sensational return for Benzema. The France boss was asked: “There’s a report today that Benzema could come back to Qatar. First of all, is it true? And is there any possibility that you could use him for a few minutes if you needed him?”
Deschamps looked exasperated, then smiled and replied: “I don’t really want to answer that question. Next question. I do apologise.”
Benzema himself appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a return with an Instagram post, saying in French: “Not interested”.
And in a press conference ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final, Deschamps ruled out a return for the Ballon d’Or winner, saying questions regarding Benzema were awkward.
He said: “I have players who have been injured before. Karim is one of them. The last to be injured is Lucas Hernandez.
“Since then, I have 24 players to manage. Asking the question vis-à-vis (with regard to) these players, it’s awkward to say the least, if not a little more. The group is there.
“I don’t care about invitations from players, former players or injured players. I don’t know who will be there. We had a group at the start and who, from what happened… We lost three, with Nkunku at the beginning. They were part of the beginning of the adventure.
“They will be 24 important players for France tomorrow”.
France tight-lipped on virus
Meanwhile, Deschamps and France captain Hugo Lloris remained tight-lipped on the effect a virus that has swept through the French camp is having ahead of Sunday’s final.
Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate are the latest France players to be affected, while Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano missed the semi-final through illness. Kingsley Coman has been isolating after Didier Deschamps confirmed on Thursday that he is also sick.
The illnesses for Varane and Konate comes just over 48 hours before the clash with Argentina.
Deschamps said: “We make sure to manage the situation as well as possible. The players were sleeping when I left, I don’t have the latest information.
“We are doing our best to manage calmly. There will be information today. I will have some tonight and until tomorrow to make sure we are ready for this big game.”
Lloris added: “I have no more news than last night. You will certainly have more info by the next training.
“The virus, we are never prepared for this kind of thing. We try to prepare for the best of ways, quite simply.
“These are hazards for which we were not necessarily prepared, but that does not take away from the excitement we can have”.