As we approach the opening of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, South America, the continuing news of notable player injuries being cast around the web and talked about in all the preview shows and media outlets, has everyone talking about who will be missing from the grandest tournament of international soccer. The beautiful game will once again showcase the best players in the world, but will also be remembered for who was missing. For them, the stage was lit, but their curtain never opened.
How and why these injuries are adding up — stemming from simple conditioning issues and long seasons in domestic campaigns to serious ACL and bone fractures — are simply due to how physical the sport really is.
Some may say that the International Friendlies that happen after the qualifying rounds for the World Cup are becoming more then just a tune up for the event. These games are leading to injuries in legs that are already tired from long domestic seasons in club leagues and double duty for the National Team. Certain players can see upwards of 50 appearances in a years’ time.
For example, the Netherlands lost midfielder Kevin Strootman early, after he went down with an ACL injury in a domestic match with his Roma club. Then, a few weeks back, the Netherlands lost Hamburg’s Rafael van der Vaart for the World Cup as well. Gregory van der Wiel (knee) and Jetro Williams (knee) are also injured and will not make appearances for the Dutch in the Tournament. Strootman will be out well past the World Cup, but hopes to be back mid-season in Italy’s Serie A season which starts in late August.
A few days ago, France got handed the bad news of their vocal leader and seasoned veteran Franck Ribery not being able to make his high impact World Cup appearance. This will have a huge devastating effect on the progress the French make, or will not make, in the tournament. Adding to the France woes, they will be without GK Steve Mandanda and Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier’s World Cup, whose aspirations were brought to an end due to a thigh injury. This now leaves France without 2 major players that were regarded as big contributors to how far this team will go.
The injury to Columbia’s Radamel Falcao might be the biggest news coming out of Group C, as the AS Monaco striker had carried this team through qualifying with nine goals. He was being looked upon as someone who would potentially get Columbia to advance easily out of group with weaker squads, such as Greece and Japan.
Columbia was just as excited as Brazil and Argentina were when the news came that the World Cup would be in South America, knowing they would get plenty of fan support from the nation they call home. So at Monaco the team will have to rally around Falcao’s teammate James Rodrigues and River Plate striker Teofilo Gutierrez. Columbia will also be without defender Luis Amaranto Perea, who was not able to heal in time from his knee injury to make the trip, and Luis Muriel was also omitted from the 23-man final roster.
England in Group D is already without Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, joining his teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is also in doubt after injuring himself in last week’s friendly against Ecuador. Kyle Walker, who was struggling with a pelvic injury, was also out for the Three Lions.
Which again leads to wonder why teams take part in Friendlies that have no significance other then the negative impact an injury can have on a team’s hope to appear at the World Cup in Brazil.
Germany will be without 25-year-old MF/F Marco Reus who has a ligament injury. This can have a bigger effect on the team than the common fan might realize. In his 2 years in Germany’s domestic league with Dortmund, he has been producing numbers not expected from a 25 year old — 30 goals in the last 2 campaigns — and contributed nicely to Europe’s Group C qualifying. The club scored 36 goals in 10 matches to get to Brazil.
Spain will be without GK Victor Valdez who had surgery in March and wasn’t expected to be back for the start of the Domestic La Liga Season. In a very emotional letter, Valdez announced he will leave Barcelona after 12 seasons, but he is still unsure where his career will finish. French Domestic AS Monaco just announced they will not be making him a contract offer. Also missing for Spain will be Thiago Alcantra, who tore ligaments in his knee back in March.
In yet another Friendly match, the Italians had yet to make an adjustment when AC Milan Captain Riccardo Montolivo suffered a fractured leg/shin vs the Republic of Ireland. He is headed to surgery this week and will hopefully be ready to start the Italian Serie A season in time, but he’s on the sidelines for the World Cup.
Belgium is one of the favorites in Group H, but they will be without Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke, who suffered a ruptured achillies in April and had hoped to be an integral part of Belgium’s World Cup plans.
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez is doing everything he can to recover from knee (Keyhole) surgery to make it back in time for the Tournament, but he is expected to be there at some point. The Uruguayan coach has said publicly that he expects Luis back for the second match with England but does not expect to have him for the opener vs Costa Rica. A lot will depend on how limited and/or effective Suarez will be in a tough group round vs England and Italy.
Croatian Niko Kranjcar went down in the QPR Domestic Playoff Final with a hamstring injury that is too severe to risk putting him on the pitch, and the news is not good regarding the injury Danijel Pranjic sustained vs Australia in their final tune up Friendly. He is listed as doubtful now.
Russian Captain Roman Shirikov suffered a relapse of a knee ligament injury he received during the Russian Premier League campaign in April. He has been ruled out for the Group H team that expects to still come out of the group with Belgium despite the loss of their captain.
MLS’ Real Salt Lake star forward Alvaro Saborio will be out for Costa Rica after suffering an unexpected break in his left foot to his fifth metatarsal bone in a training session in late May. He represented the U-23 team at the ’04 Olympics scoring the qualifying goal that clinched the spot, and started three of four games in the event. He has 54 caps and 23 goals, while playing for the team during 2006 World Cup qualifiers. Remember, Real Salt Lake is already without Bryan Oviedo, the Everton MF who broke his tibia and fibula in Domestic English Premier play in January.
Mexico midfielder Luis Montes suffered what we call an ugly ‘head turning’ leg injury in one a final tune up friendly vs Ecuador. You do not want to see this gruesome injury. Montes will take much time to rebound from this, both physically and mentally. Additionally, Carlos Medina was hurt in training bad enough to ned to see a surgeon, so the Mexican squad will be without both players.
Former Honduran U-20 Captain and current Scottish League Ranger Arnold Peralta, now 25, was hoping to have an impact after making 7 appearances in qualifying and growing into a quality defensive mid fielder. Unfortunately, his high thigh strain will knock him out of the mix.
Nigerian defender Elderson Echiejile was injured in a friendly match with Greece. He needs three to four weeks to recover, so he won’t be making his expected Brazil appearanc.
Jerry Akaminko, 26, will not make his appearance for Ghana. He was expected to have an impact on the back line in the labeled ‘group of death’, Group G.
Australia took a hit in January when Robbie Kruse, the 2013 Australian Player of the Year, tore ligaments in his left knee. The Leverkusen MF saw action in all 13 of Australia’s qualifying matches but will not be with the team in Brazil.
You could form almost 2 squads just from the player’s injury list. We don’t see conditioning as the simple reason for these injuries. They are all mostly due to tough physical play, some undeserved knocks and just bad luck and bad timing.
These injuries also generate many conversations about the impact of the wave of International Friendlies before the main event. This has an effect on what teams should use International Friendlies to learn from and should there be that there are certain players that can’t stay in form without putting not only their World Cup dreams to sleep, but in some cases. many months of recovery playing in an essentially meaningless exhibition type game.
While yes, injuries are part of the game and even more will come as the matches progress, these names are considered ‘impact injuries’, but this bad news potentially lead to good news for other players. With all the players who were to once expected to make the score sheets and the fill the impact tabs now sitting it out due to unfortunate circumstances, it helps to create someone else’s ‘career moment’. Soccer is a team sport and no one man a team make. So who steps in to fill the boots and now has their own opportunity to make an impact that was not expected to happen?
So with all this negative will surely come a positive. An unforeseen player will now get a chance to make their own mark on the Grand Stage of soccer known simply as The World Cup!