World Cup: Franck-ly, French hopes are over

World Cup: Franck-ly, French hopes are over
France's national soccer team players Franck Ribery (L) and Karim Benzema react as they leave the training field in Clairefontaine, near Paris, in preparation for the upcoming World Cup, May 29, 2014.

The ball ended at the final stroke of midnight for Cinderella.

For France, the party ended before they even boarded the plane to Brazil.

Coach Didier Deschamps is clinging on to hope, but fearing the worst.

Franck Ribery, his standout player, the one who was carrying their World Cup hopes, has lost his battle.

His injured back just wouldn't heal in time. His absence cannot be underestimated.

The 31-year-old Bayern Munich star was voted the world's third-best player in January, behind Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi.

Shorn of their talismanic playmaker, France's dreams appear in tatters.

Without him, Les Bleus have lost their cutting edge. He is the team's heartbeat, the one player recent coaches have built French teams around.

They will miss his influence on the field, ability to dictate the tempo, and eye for the killer pass.

They won't be able to replace his craft, much less his aura and the fear he instils in opponents.

That it came as a surprise - Deschamps said: "The signs were very positive" - made it an even more bitter pill for France to swallow. To rub salt into the wound, it wasn't Les Bleus' only setback yesterday.

On its own, attacking midfielder Clement Grenier's withdrawal, because of a recurrence of a groin injury, may not sound like a pinch, let alone a blow.

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