N’Golo Kante suffers an injury-related ‘setback’ and will reportedly miss the World Cup


N’Golo Kante will reportedly miss the 2022 World Cup due to injury. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

N’Golo Kante, the superhuman midfielder who helped France to a World Cup triumph in 2018, will reportedly miss the 2022 edition of the football icon after injuring his hamstring in training.

Chelsea manager Graham Potter said on Friday Kante’s injury was “a setback” and “not good news”. The 31-year-old had returned to training almost two months after an initial overload of his hamstrings in August but had worsened again in the past week.

Neither Potter nor the club have given a new timeline for Kante’s recovery. Potter said he will see a specialist this weekend. But both French and English media reported on Friday that Kante will be out for three months.

He will therefore miss the World Cup, which starts on November 20 – and France will find out how irreplaceable Kante is.

He’s just one member of the most talented pool of players in international football. But he is unique. Some players have multiple positions; Kante plays several positions at the same time. For both France and Chelsea and previously Leicester City, he was able to shield a back line and anchor a press and carry the ball in transition. At the height of his power, coaches and pundits would joke that Kante allowed his teams to play a 12-man 4-5-2 or 4-4-3 formation.

He was pretty close to peaking his powers in 2018 when France boss Didier Deschamps used Kante as his defensive midfielder at the World Cup. France played seven games in Russia, conceding a goal in only two from open play. And in one of those two, Kante was slowed down by illness. When healthy, he devoured any hint of an enemy attack. Even when he was over 30, he was “super important” in the words of then-Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel.

But he also played in a conservative French structure that systematically repressed opponents. What we’ll learn in Qatar next month is just how important Kante has been to this structure. As always, Deschamps will rein in France’s unparalleled talent. Maybe Les Bleus will be impenetrable again; or maybe they won’t.

What is certain now is that they will be different. With Paul Pogba, who is also injured, and Blaise Matuidi, 35 and no longer in the picture of the national team, France could go to the World Cup from 2018 without all three of their midfielders.

A likely replacement is Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni, one of the most desirable central midfielders in the world. But he’s not Kante. Neither are Adrien Rabiot, Eduardo Camavinga and Matteo Guendouzi. Nobody is.

And that, in short, is France’s latest of many troubles as the World Cup approaches.

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