As we gear up for the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup this coming Friday we are in store for a month of a carnival football as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ invites the world to enjoy this landmark achievement for the African continent as they host their first ever World Cup tournament. As excited as we all are for this historic occasion we will be fully aware that not all of the world’s major players will be in attendance for footballs big dance.
Injuries have played havoc in the build up to this year’s tournament. For whatever reason, bad luck, bad timing, bad footwear, it has vanquished the dreams of many talent across the globe of featuring in the biggest sporting showpiece in sport.
Like previous World Cups we have become accustomed to the formality that we may not see one or two stars that have been plagued by injury during the build up to the tournament. As football sets to take centre stage this Friday in front of an estimated audience of two billion they will be well aware that their viewing pleasure has been tarnished somewhat as some of the games major players sit out the tournament denying us the opportunity of seeing them test their abilities against the world’s best.
In total there is possibly around a dozen renown players who will be watching events unfold in South Africa via their homes. Some of the major teams out of the 32 competing in this summer’s World Cup have seen their preparations hampered by injuries. Most recently Arjen Robben of Holland, who tweaked his hamstring in the dying moments of their 6-1 rout over Hungary in a warm up game on Saturday. His participation in the tournament is still a question to be answered like Didier Drogba who broke his arm during another warm up match for his Ivory Coast team. Their race to be fit for their countries opening matches is questionable to say the least.
This article looks at some of the major stars who have been ruled out of the 19th FIFA World Cup including a number of potential players who may also succumb to this disappointing fate:
David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand – England
The former England and current skipper have had their dreams shattered as The Three Lions see two of the most influential players in the last decade miss what would have potentially been their last World Cup appearance. David Beckham who moved to Europe at the turn of the year from Los Angeles to play in Italy for The Rossoneri of AC Milan ruptured his Achilles tendon back in March. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star had opted to move back to Europe to enhance his prospects of making Fabio Capello’s 23-man squad. A tearful Beckham left the San Siro that night knowing his hard work of being back in the England reckoning would count for nothing. His name alone is a big loss for the World Cup as his iconic status will be dually missed. However he will be in attendance with the England camp as he helps aid Fabio Capello’s team.
Rio Ferdinand has suffered immensely this past year due to a number of injuries, most notably the problems with his back which has ruled him out for the majority of Manchester United’s season. The 31 year old only made 13 appearances in the league and that unlucky number seems to have come back to haunt him as he broke down in England’s first training session in Rustenburg following a tackle on fellow team mate Emile Heskey. His manager broke the news right after the incident during his press conference whilst Rio was on his way to hospital for a scan. It was broke to the England skipper that he would be out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury effectively ending his World Cup dreams. It is a real shame for Ferdinand who had worked hard on his fitness for the upcoming finals. Michael Dawson has been called up as his replacement.
Michael Ballack, Rene Adler, Heiko Westermann and Simon Rofles – Germany
The three time winners Germany have suffered some rotten luck in their preparations. Four key members of their squad have been ruled out via injuries, most notably their captain and talisman Michael Ballack.
Ballack had yet another steady season in West London with Chelsea has he helped his clubs cause to a domestic league and cup double. However during the FA Cup final against Portsmouth he suffered ligament damage in his right ankle following a robust challenge from Kevin Prince Boateng, who ironically is a German born citizen who opted to play for the Ghanaian national team due to his roots. He will be participating in the World Cup as he made the 23 man squad and made his first international appearance for the Black Stars last Saturday against Latvia. It is a real sickner for Ballack who would have been leading his national team out for the final time at a FIFA World Cup. He has been an immense colossal for his nation as his goal in the 2002 semi-final against South Korea booked Germanys place in the final against Brazil despite knowing he would miss the showpiece date due to a suspension.
Simon Rofles and Heiko Westermann both underwent surgery back in January to their respective injuries. Rofles had knee surgery but effectively ruled himself out of Joachim Low’s plans as he wouldn’t be fit come the summer. Westermann also went under the knife at the turn of the year to cure his problem with his knee. He got back to full match fitness but his luck was compounded last week as he broke a bone in his foot against Hungary in Budapest. The 27-year old had a scan in northern Italy where he heard the harrowing news that he will not be participating in South Africa.
First choice goalkeeper Rene Adler was ruled out of the tournament last month due to a rib injury he suffered in a 2-1 loss to Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. The Bayer Leverkusen stopper underwent surgery but he would not be able to recover in time to make Low’s squad. It is a real blow for the 25 year old who was tipped to make a real impact for The Team over the coming weeks.
Michael Essien – Ghana
The Chelsea powerhouse has had a torrid year with his injury. The 27 year old damaged his knee ligaments back in January whilst on international duty with Ghana. This ruled him out of their African cup of nation’s squad and effectively ended his domestic season in England as he sat out the remainder of The Blues campaign as they strolled to a league and cup double without one of their biggest stars.
Essien has tried his utmost to be fit for the first African World Cup. It’s a bitter pill for the former Lyon man to swallow as being a proud African he would have relished the opportunity of showcasing his wealth of abilities on his home continent. His absence was announced at the end of May as the Black Stars gear up for their opening game against Serbia on the 13th June.
Lassana Diarra – France
Real Madrid anchorman Lassana Diarra will be missing for the 2006 runners-up France. The 25 year old was all geared up his first FIFA World Cup after a successful year and a half in Spain following his move from Portsmouth. However during France’s high altitude preparations for the conditions they will experience in South Africa they travelled to the Rhone-Alpes region of the French Alps where Diarra endured persistent stomach pains.
Diarra missed three days of training following a hike up a glacier where he began to feel unwell. His club Real Madrid later revealed that he suffers from a genetic disorder which affects his red blood cells which causes chronic fatigue. After a check-up with the medical team it was concurred that Diarra would need a significant period of rest and there was no chance of him competing for Les Bleus in the World Cup.
Jose Bosingwa – Portugal
Another Chelsea star to have been hampered with injuries is Jose Bosingwa. Portugal’s dynamic full-back will miss the tournament after picking up a knee injury last October which ruled him out for the entire season. The 27 year old had surgery to repair his problem but a number of complications followed up with his rehabilitation meaning another operation was needed back in March. The club announced he would be out of the World Cup as he now focuses on getting fit for next season.
Bosingwa had a fantastic year prior to his injury troubles. He joined Chelsea from FC Porto for £16million and became an integral part of the Chelsea team where he worked well in conjunction with fellow full back Ashley Cole as Chelsea added a more fluid attacking approach to their repertoire.
Jon Obi Mikel – Nigeria
Another African to face the realisation of missing out on his continents first World Cup is Nigeria’s Jon Obi Mikel.
He underwent minor knee surgery last month and his participation in the tournament hadn’t really come under any doubt. However during his nations first training session in preparation for the finals the Chelsea star felt uneasy and declared his exclusion from the squad to prevent any long term damage to his knee.
Coach Lars Lagerback has called up Sochaux’s Brown Ideye as his replacement.
Players potentially missing out:
Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast
32 year old Didier Drogba who finished the Premier Leagues top goal scorer with 29 goals has suffered a monumental scare ahead of the World Cup. During a warm up game against Japan last week the Ivory Coast talisman suffered a fractured ulna in his right forearm following a robust challenge from Tulio Tanaka. As he screamed in pain the news that followed was even more so. His initial injury indicated to the entire that he would be out of the World Cup.
Drogba, including teammate Kolo Toure declared to the press that he would not be figuring in South Africa before retracting his statement. The Ivorian has spent the weekend in hospital following emergency surgery to help save his World Cup prospects.
Despite the scare the news look more encouraging as he will now link up with his team mates as they jet off to South Africa on Wednesday. Drogba is a huge cog in Sven Goran Eriksson’s side as he has scored an amazing 44 goals in 69 appearances for his country. It is still debatable whether or not he will be fit in time to play any part during the finals but for the sake of football his presence would be sorely missed if he loses his battle.
Andrea Pirlo – Italy
A huge reason why Fabio Cannavaro lifted Italy’s fourth World Cup was due to the orchestrated play of Andrea Pirlo. He had a wonderful World Cup four years ago as his range of passing tantalised the opposition as Marcello Lippi’s team became the immortals of the world game.
However this time around the signs are discouraging for the AC Milan man as his participation looks doubtful after picking up an injury to his calf last week during his side’s 2-1 loss to the hands of Mexico in a friendly.
Speculation is indicating he will miss the world champion’s first two group games, but coach Marcello Lippi has hinted he will still include Pirlo in the squad.
“If Pirlo skips three games, it’s not a problem. He might come back in the fourth, who knows?” said Lippi.
It shows just how vital Pirlo is to the Italians dreams of retaining their crown. Once again for the sake of football it would be a real shame for a major star such as Pirlo who exemplifies a wonderful attributed player to miss out on the finals.
Arjen Robben – Holland
Coming off the back of his greatest season to date with Bayern Munich, 26 year-old Arjen Robben’s hopes of making it to South Africa are in jeopardy after aggravating his hamstring during the friendly victory over Hungary last Saturday.
It was Robben’s first appearance in the warm up games prior to the squad’s arrival in Africa. He gave a wonderful 40 minute salve orchestrating his flair and ability. As he attempted a back heel in the final minutes of the game he tweaked his hamstring which has put his participation in real doubt.
He has undergone a scan and a number of tests to help aid his cause of making it to the ‘Rainbow Nation’. He will now undergo intense physiotherapy as coach Bert van Marwijk intends to keep him in his squad despite the possibility of him missing all three group games.
Robben has been in the form of his life and this is a real cruel blow for such a special talent. The Dutch medical team will now work vigorously with Robben to help regain his fitness.
Julio Cesar – Brazil
Being dubbed as the world’s finest goalkeeper, Brazilian number one Julio Cesar injured his back during a friendly against Zimbabwe last Wednesday. He will not sit out his nation’s final warm up game against Tanzania as he missed his first game at international level for two years.
Coach Dunga will be hoping the Internazionale star will be fit in time for their opening game of the finals against North Korea at Ellis Park next week.
Injuries are a nightmare as they can crumble a footballers dream in an instant. A number of these injuries have occurred during World Cup warm up games which shows the high level competiveness between players even before a ball has been kicked in South Africa. Unfortunately, injuries go with the territory of being a professional footballer and as it is so eloquently put – “that’s football”. It is an undoubted shame for the watching world to be denied the opportunity of the seeing some of the world’s top talent grace their presence in footballs biggest showpiece. Despite a number of absentees, we cannot forget those who will be taking part as we are set to endure a month of thrills and spills for the 19th FIFA World Cup.