France are down to just 24 players in Qatar after Lucas Hernandez was ruled out of the World Cup after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
The Bayern Munich defender picked up the serious knee injury in the first half of Tuesday’s group stage opener against Australia.
He was replaced by brother Theo, with Les Bleus recovering from 1-0 down to ease to a 4-1 victory as Olivier Giroud brought up 51 international goals.
But the win has been marred by the severity of Hernandez‘s knock as the defending World Cup champions suffered another injury blow.
Several key players from France had already been ruled out of the global tournament, including the likes of Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
And a statement from France confirmed Hernandez has become the latest casualty after damaging his right knee.
The 26-year-old now is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines where he will play no part in the second half of the 2022/23 season.
France boss Didier Deschamps said: “Like the whole group, players and staff, I am extremely sorry for Lucas.
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“We are losing an important element. Lucas is a warrior and I have no doubt that he will do everything possible to return to the game.
“First plan, I know him well. Courage, he will have it, that’s for sure.
“On behalf of the group, I wish him the best possible recovery.”
Prior to the World Cup squad being announced, Pogba and Kante were both ruled out due to respective knee and hamstring injuries.
Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe was then forced to pull out of the initial 26-man squad.
The defender failed to recover from his own hamstring problem, leading him to be replaced by Monaco’s Axel Disasi,
Chelsea target Christopher Nkunku was the next casualty in the French team after tearing a ligament in his knee.
The RB Leipzig star was left in a heap on the ground after colliding with teammate Eduardo Camavinga in training, resulting in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani being called up.
Just days later, Real Madrid marksman Benzema was ruled out after suffering a thigh injury on the eve of the World Cup on Saturday.
Deschamps decided against replacing him in the squad, despite the likes of Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette and Wissam Ben Yedder in fine form this campaign.
His decision left France down to 25 players, and with Hernandez now out, Deschamps has only 24 players at his disposal for the rest of the World Cup.
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