29.11.2022 15:47 h

France coach Deschamps refuses to discuss holidaying Benzema

France coach Didier Deschamps on Tuesday refused to discuss Karim Benzema after the injured Ballon d'Or winner was spotted arriving on holiday on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion following his withdrawal from the World Cup.

The Real Madrid striker pulled out of the France squad with an injured left thigh on the eve of the tournament and departed their team hotel in Qatar soon afterwards.

He arrived on Reunion, a French overseas department, early on Tuesday morning following rumours in Spain that he might return to training with his club.

Sources close to Benzema said the player would stay on the island for a week.

Asked about Benzema, who is still officially part of the France squad at the World Cup having not been replaced, Deschamps dismissed the question.

"You are fishing for things there, but these things are not on my mind. I don't know who is saying what, where or how," the France coach said at a press conference in Doha ahead of Wednesday's final group game against Tunisia.

"I spoke to Karim after his departure, and you know what his situation is and how long he will be out for.

"I am focusing on the 24 players who are here. I'll let you talk about that and debate it if you want, but I am not going to talk about things that don't affect what we are doing here from day to day."

The French Football Federation said Benzema would be sidelined for three weeks after he picked up the injury, technically meaning he could be fit to return for the end of the World Cup should France go that far.

France have won both Group D games so far at the tournament against Australia and Denmark and a draw against Tunisia on Wednesday will guarantee that they progress to the last 16 as winners of their section.

Even a defeat will suffice so long as Australia do not beat Denmark and manage to overturn France's advantage on goal difference, which is currently superior by six.

Deschamps is therefore expected to rotate his squad and give some of his fringe players a run-out ahead of a last-16 tie on Saturday or Sunday.

"The fact that we know we are through, like Brazil and Portugal, does give us more room to make changes, but we absolutely must not devalue this third match," Deschamps said.

"We must try to get the best result possible, without having the obligation to do so. It is a World Cup match and it is important to keep our dynamic going."

Tunisia -- whose squad features 10 French-born players -- have to win the game at Education City Stadium to have a chance of advancing, but they have never previously beaten the two-time world champions.

"The message I would like to convey to my players is that nothing is impossible. We are still alive," said Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri.