Concerns are rising over an illness that has been spreading at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. After the deaths of three journalists who were covering the event, France national team players have reportedly been struck by a bug that may put the team at risk of losing several key players for their semi-final match against Morocco on Wednesday night.

According to numerous reports, French centre back Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot were both notably absent from pre-match training after falling ill. The reigning World Cup title holders are the hot favourites to defend their title, but Morocco have proven to be giant killers so far in the competition.

Manager Didier Deschamps will not be happy to lose two of his starters and perhaps more players if the illness spreads within the French camp.

Media outlets have not specified the illness, but The Sun describes Rabiot as "unwell," while Upamecano has a sore throat.

These are concerning details considering that prior to his death, American journalist Grant Wahl revealed that he had been battling a respiratory ailment that was suspected to be bronchitis. He also revealed that the media centre was filled with people who were coughing and suffering from similar symptoms.

Meanwhile, the other two who died, ITV technical director Roger Pearce and Qatari photojournalist Khalid A-Misslam, both succumbed suddenly of unknown causes. Organisers have not addressed the health concerns at the World Cup even as the buzz grows louder over the deaths and sickness.

Meanwhile, England has already issued a warning to local health services to watch out for signs of the deadly "camel flu" also known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) among those returning from Qatar.

Wahl mentioned that he underwent regular testing for Covid-19 while in Qatar, but it is unclear if this was mandatory for other members of the media or players and staff. He said that Covid did not appear to be as widespread as he expected, but there was a respiratory bug that had hit him and many others.

His body was repatriated to the USA on Monday, and an autopsy will be performed to determine his cause of death.

Hugo Lloris
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris addresses a press conference in Qatar AFP / FRANCK FIFE