DOHA (AP) — World champions France are to be without star player Karim Benzema at the FIFA World Cup. The Ballon d’Or winner is struggling too much with an upper leg injury. The 34-year-old Real Madrid striker was already injured and was absent from training again on Saturday.

Benzema had just returned to the private training group of the French. He had suffered from physical ailments for several weeks. A few hours after training, the French Football Federation confirmed that the star player could not participate in the World Cup.

“I am extremely sad for Karim, who has made this World Cup an important objective. Despite this new blow to the France team, I have full confidence in my group. We will do everything to overcome the immense challenge ahead of us.” said national coach Didier Deschamps.

A month ago, Benzema received the Ballon d’Or for the first time, the award for the best player of the last season. He then won the Champions League with Real Madrid. Liverpool were beaten 1-0 in the final.

As the World Cup approached, Deschamps saw many base players drop out due to injury. Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku, among others, fell away from the defending champion.

France begin the hunt for the title extension on Tuesday with a match against Australia. Tunisia and Denmark are the other opponents in the group stage.