In their opening match in the group round on Tuesday, France easily defeated Australia 4-1, but not without some pain. The French Football Federation said that Les Bleus left-back Lucas Hernandez departed the game barely 13 minutes into it during the Socceroos’ scoring run due to what was subsequently determined by an MRI to be an ACL tear in his right knee.
In addition to ending his World Cup, the injury will keep Bayern Munich’s star player out of action for the foreseeable future as the German club gears up for the C.L. knockout stage in February.
There is now just one defender left in Didier Deschamps’ roster after Hernandez was overtaken by his younger brother Theo, who assisted in the game.
Karim Benzema’s injury prevented him from competing in this World Cup, which was terrible enough for Deschamps. Still, he decided not to deploy a replacement, leaving him with just 24 players for France’s remaining games. Presnal Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunku, and other players from the original lineup had to be changed due to injuries. N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, and other players weren’t healthy enough to compete.
The only defenders with tournament experience on the right wing are Benjamin Pavard and Jules Kounde; thus, if Hernandez cannot play, someone will have to play out of position at left-back. France may not need to play much defense if they can maintain their fluid offense, led by Oliver Giroud and Kylian Mbappe, throughout the World Cup. The accumulation of yellow cards and the lack of defensive depth will be things to watch as the tournament progresses.
Four of the previous five champions have lost in the following World Cup group stage, which doesn’t bode well for France. Les Bleus could bust this taboo this time around in Qatar. It’s a trend that started in 2002 after, in 1998, they claimed their first World Cup.