PARIS: France’s World Cup hopes suffered a massive blow yesterday when star winger Franck Ribery withdrew from the tournament because of a back injury that has virtually stopped him running.
The latest in a series of injuries to hit the 31-year-old Bayern Munich forward’s this year, flared up again and forced the last-minute change on the shocked French camp.
“We had stepped up his level of work this week and it was in a training session this morning, before even he could join team training, which involved him running and stepping up his routine that he pulled up with a sharp pain in his back,” Deschamps told a press conference.
“We had him undergo examinations which unfortunately confirmed that he had aggravated his back problem and there was no question of him being able to either train nor play,” the coach added.
Ribery, who has scored 16 goals in 80 appearances for France, had said before the tournament that this would be his last World Cup.
Deschamps also announced that midfielder Clement Grenier would not be fit for Brazil because of a groin injury. He called up Montpellier’s attacking midfielder Remy Cabella and Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin as replacements.
Quitting the tournament completes a miserable six months for Ribery, veteran of the past two World Cups, who arrived at France’s training camp already laid low with the back pain.
His form even before that had dipped after he suffered depression which he blamed on his failure to land the Ballon d’Or trophy for the world player of the year. He finished third behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Ribery underwent a buttock operation and his performances on his return to the Bayern team were way below his stunning displays in 2013 when Bayern won Europe’s Champions League and every Germany trophy.
The back problem plagued him into the dying weeks of the domestic season and prevented him from playing in Bayern’s two final Bundesliga matches. He had not been fit to train even after he appeared in Bayern’s German Cup final win over Borussia Dortmund on May 17.
His withdrawal means he misses also the chance to atone for his role in France’s humiliating 2010 World Cup finals campaign.
Ribery was part of the he French team that went on strike for a training session in protest at striker Nicolas Anelka being sent home for a foul-mouthed outburst against coach Raymond Domenech. Ribery was given a three game suspension for his role.
The loss is a major blow to Deschamps as Ribery was one of only perhaps two world class players in the squad, with striker Karim Benzema.AFP