The FIFA World Cup – A spectacle that stops the world in its tracks. Few have played on the biggest stage. Even fewer have dazzled and lifted that hallowed trophy. This year is probably the time when we see the best in the last two generations clashing in the heat and humidity of Brazil. But these days, with players forced to go through nearly sixty games a season for club and country, the strain is telling. Many of the tournament’s brightest stars are to be absent from the showpiece event, their chance to dazzle and leave billions in awe thwarted for another four years at least.
Perhaps the biggest loss to this year’s event will be the absence of Radamel Falcao. The Columbian striker has scored for fun in the last four seasons and is a penalty box poacher unmatched. However, he won’t be taking to the field in Brazil this year thanks to an injury suffered during a cup tie for AS Monaco. If a country’s hopes of World Cup glory ever rested on one man alone, it would be Falcao.
The same, of course, could be said of Franck Ribery. The wily French winger has wowed the world in his displays for Bayern Munich and was essential to France making it to the event via a play-off victory. However, once more – club duties mean he is not fit to make the biggest stage itself and help inspire France. Another Bayern player – Thiago Alcantara has been ruled out for Spain after suffering a knee injury. One of the brightest midfield talents in the world, Thiago has been robbed of a chance to show Barcelona the folly they committed by letting him go. Joining them on the treatment table in Bavaria is long-term absentee Holger Badstuber who has taken nearly two years to recover from his ACL tear. The German international has not played a game in this time and would have been hard-pressed to be picked by Joachim Low, but is a versatile member of any squad.
Sticking to Germany, we have two of their youngest and brightest stars – Ilkay Gundogan (back) and Marco Reus (ankle) are unavailable for the tournament. This was supposed to be the year that both BVB stars showed the world their true capabilities and why Dortmund making it to the Champions League finals was no fluke.
Then we come to the stories that hurt the most, players who may have played their last game for their current employers under circumstances out of their control. Victor Valdes (ACL Tear) and Steven Mandanda (Cracked Vertebra) are two goalkeepers seeking pastures anew who were to bid a fond farewell to their fans and travelling to the World Cup. As such, injury has robbed them the chance of doing both of the above.
Mexican Luis Montes and Italian Ricardo Montolivo have also suffered horrific injuries in preparation for the World Cup, with both having either damaged or broken their legs entirely and are long-term absentees. The quality of both squads shall dip without question due to their absence. Italy has also lost El Shaarawy to a metatarsal issue and Giuseppe Rossi, though fully recovered from knee issues has been left out of the final 23 man squad.
But no squad is compromised more by injury at the World Cup perhaps than Netherlands this year. Whatever the reason, to have players like Kevin Strootman (Knee), Rafael Van Der Vaart (Calf) and Gregory Van Der Wiel (Knee) missing through injury is a stroke of extreme misfortune. Of all these, Strootman was the one with the most to give and the most to lose at Brazil. A shame he won’t even make the flight then.
England have lost three players as well, Kyle Walker ( Pelvis), Andros Townsend (Neck) and Theo Walcott (ACL) all of whom add pace and technique to a young England team and are able deputies if not first-choice.
There is also a murmur of fear surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo as his thigh and right knee begin to show the strain of carrying Real Madrid to La Decima. A player without compare in the world at the moment, Ronaldo’s lack of full fitness would surely be an absolute hammer blow to the spectacle in Brazil.
A tournament that threatens to be marred by too many injuries already. Here’s hoping the ones who’ve gone make it worth the while.