France striker Karim Benzema retires from international football

Real Madrid striker calls time on Les Bleus career after missing World Cup in Qatar due to injury

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France striker Karim Benzema has announced his retirement from international football after missing out on the World Cup in Qatar due to injury.

Benzema called time on his international career on Monday – his 35th birthday – after scoring 37 goals in 97 games for France. It comes less than 24 hours after Les Bleus lost the World Cup final to Argentina.

The current Ballon d'Or winner was forced drop out of the French squad just before the tournament started in Qatar after picking up an injury during training.

Benzema had been struggling with a thigh problem with club side Real Madrid since October and has played less than half an hour of football in his club's previous six games.

“I made the effort and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I'm proud of it! I wrote my story and ours ends,” Benzema wrote in Twitter on Monday.

He was frozen out of the France team for five and a half years because of his involvement in a blackmail scandal involving his former teammate Mathieu Valbuena. In a trial last year, he was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined €75,000 ($79,500).

The fallout from that led to a dramatic fall from grace for Benzema. He faced a nationwide deluge of vitriol and scathing criticism, including on a political level. It led to a long exclusion from the national team from October 2015 until his recall by Deschamps in May last year.

With his relationship with Deschamps repaired, Benzema scored freely for France with 10 goals in 16 games after his return to reach 37 overall, forming a dangerous partnership with Kylian Mbappe.

Benzema's exile meant he missed out on France's 2018 World Cup triumph but he was recalled ahead of last summer's European Championship and was desperate to be involved in the first major finals to be held in the Middle East.

It would have been the Lyon-born attacker's first World Cup appearance since 2014 after being named in manager Deschamps' squad and his superlative form for Real last season saw the Spanish side win La Liga and the Champions League.

Benzema scored a remarkable 44 goals in 46 games in all competitions which helped him secure a first Ballon d'Or.

But he was denied a World Cup swansong by injury, although reports in recent weeks have suggested that relations between Benzema and Deschamps broke down since he left the squad.

France, meanwhile, were denied back-to-back World Cup triumphs after losing in a penalty shoot-out to Argentina on Sunday.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 4:03 PM