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May 26, 2014

France upbeat over Benzema fitness

ESPN FC's Frank Leboeuf asserts that France's talent may not be enough to conquer their individual egos and might struggle to play as a team.

France coach Didier Deschamps has said he is confident that Karim Benzema will be fit to spearhead the country's World Cup challenge.

- Johnson: Five problems Deschamps must solve

Benzema, 26, suffered a left adductor muscle strain at the end of the La Liga season, but featured in the 4-1 Champions League final triumph over neighbours Atletico on Saturday.

However, he watched from the bench as Madrid pulled clear in extra time after being replaced by Alvaro Morata 11 minutes from the end of the 90.

Benzema will now undergo treatment on the injury -- which generally requires a two-week recovery period -- on Monday and Tuesday before joining the France World Cup squad at Clairefontaine the following day.

"He had that problem, but he played. There's no reason to be worried," Deschamps told reporters.

"He played the final without a problem, and didn't injure himself. I know that he would have liked to have played longer but given the way the game went, with extra-time, there would have been more of a risk. He's aware of that. He felt good enough to play."

After Gonzalo Higuain's move to Napoli last summer, Benzema was Madrid's main forward this season, and responded by scoring 24 goals in 52 competitive outings.

"It is all the better that he's played a lot," Deschamps said. "The season before, he and Higuain often alternated. We're going to do what we can to prepare him well. There's no problem. We have time before June 15."

While Benzema should be fit for the opening Group E encounter with Honduras, Tuesday's opening warm-up friendly against Norway at the Stade de France will come too early for him.

He will join former OL team-mate and France captain Hugo Lloris on the sidelines in Paris, with the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper set to be replaced by St-Etienne's Stephane Ruffier.

Ruffier, 27, was initially named among seven reserves by Deschamps before being promoted to the squad proper following the withdrawal of Marseille's Steve Mandanda through injury.

Deschamps told TF1 that Ruffier, who made his sole international appearance so far in a friendly defeat to Norway in 2010, would be his new No. 2 keeper.

"Stephane Ruffier takes the place of Steve Mandanda," he confirmed. "He has of course had a very positive reaction, because he went from a position of not going to the World Cup to one where he will go."

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