The matches are still days away and already the list of those whose full-scale participation is in doubt is staggering.
Noteworthy “football” names, gone, that go by single name identifications: “Robben,” “Drogba,”….”Nani.”
So which injuries–taking into account severity, back-ups, team quality, and time to recover–have the biggest impact for their teams.
Here are some thoughts from TSG:
• Fernando Torres, Spain, Severity: Good To Go
How many times must we hear that Spain’s “flow” improved without Torres on their way to the Euro 2008 Cup win. Lay off the sauce, if you can’t find a way to make Fernando Torres productive on your team then maybe you should change professions.
Note: Now Iniesta is ailing again.
We’ll Find A Way To Make Do
• Andre Pirlo, Italy, Severity: Out For Group Stage
The former Italian maestro and winner of the 2006 tourney’s Bronze Ball award is a catalyst for the Italian attack. However Pirlo, along with injured teammate Mauro Camoranesi, has slowed considerably over the past few years.
While Pirlo may be capable of World Cup excellence in spots, his overall game doesn’t carry as well anymore. Should Italy falter without Pirlo, chalk it up to head coach Marcelo Lippi’s stubbornness to go with a team of aging veterans looking for a final hurrah.
• Arjen Robben, The Netherlands, Severity: Mild
The brittle Bayern winger pulled up lame from a hamstring injury in a friendly this past weekend and has been ruled out of the Dutch’s side’s opener against Denmark. While Robben is a game changer, capable of adapting to the game and scorching a shot or making the critical final pass, the Netherlands have some supply waiting in the wings.
Particularly Eljero Elia.
The Hamburg man who was on display against the USMNT in March is in fine form right now and with Van Persie pivoting in the middle and Dirk Kuyt and Elia as options on the outside, the Netherlands can overcome until Robben regains his step.
• Simon Kjær, Denmark, Severity: Expected To Play
You’ll be hearing a lot about Simon Kjær in the coming years, if not at this World Cup. Kjær currently is patrolling the 18-yard box for Serie A’s Palermo but seems to certain move after the tournament to a Premiership club.
While Kjaer is hopeful for full mobility and a pain-free tournament, treatment on his injured knee will be a game-time decision. It’s important Kjaer, who will match up with Robin Van Persie in the first match, is ready to go at full speed since the Danes rely heavily on his ability to shut down the opponent’s top guy.
• Wilson Palacios, Honduras, Severity: Expected To Play 1st Match
Palacios says he’ll play in his country’s first World Cup match in 28 years. That said, Henry Thomas is more than capable as his ally in the middle of the field. A bigger issue for Honduras may be….
• David Suazo, Honduras, Severity: Expected To Play 1st Match
Honduras is going absolutely no where without this veteran driving the attack…if Honduras was expected to advance past the group, Suazo’s injury might be deemed Big Impact.
• David Beckham, England, Severity: Out For The Tournament
Need a goal in the last 15 minutes on a set piece? Cue up Beckham to Peter Crouch. Need someone with the magnetism to draw the press and take pressure of those now carrying the bulk of the leadership torch. Select Beckham. In the lockerroom, Becks will be missed for the Queen.
• Lasanna Diarra, France, Severity: Out For The Tournament
Those who have been paying attention know that TSG has been all aTwitter about the lack of mentions for the Real Madrid middle man.
Diarra is a poor man’s Makelele, able to be the lone holder in the midfield and link quite effectively through it. In his absence, France has had to: (a) change its formation to a 4-3-3, three will remain tethered in defense now instead of two and (b) employ Jeremy Toulalan in the center of the withdrawn three while Toulalan was considered as a possible spot starter on the backline.
If France didn’t have Toulalan’s capability, Diarra’s absence would have moved his case to the Big Impact side of the see-saw.
• Oguchi Onyewu, United States, Status: Expected To Play In The Group Stage
USMNT fans have been rewinding and rewinding game tape of Oguchi Onyewu’s gate since the Czech friendly more than two weeks ago. It’s clear that you are not watching an athlete who is set at all systems go.
The question for Onyewu is not actually one of injury, but of recovery. Will there be enough improvement in the tiny time window of the World Cup to allow Onyewu to contribute as oppose to just survive? Will his team survive without his strength in the middle on set pieces? Will it have to?
• Rio Ferdinand, Team: England, Status: Out For The Tournament
Ferdinand’s injury might be more important then where his name sits in this list.
It all depends upon Steven Gerrard’s ability to captain the pride. While the talent drop-off from a fit Ferdinand to Ledley King is only a whisker, Ferdinand’s undeniable leadership abilities–born in London and playing in Manchester the central defender unites the proverbial North and South divide of England–are important to a team that doesn’t always have the moxie to overcome the World Cup bumps in the road.
Now that task falls to Gerrard. If he succeeds, then the loss of Ferdinand will be minimized.
• John Obi Mikel, Team: Nigeria, Status: Out For Tournament
As much as this writer is not a fan of Obi Mikel’s game, the Nigerian midfielder is counted on to provide the maligned Super Chickens stability through his Champion’s League experience. Well, he won’t do that now. In fact, news has surfaced that Obi Mikel was rather indifferent to playing and may have voluntarily pulled himself from his squad’s twenty-three.
In his absence, Nigeria has horses in the midfield, but Mikel was counted on to be the field general.
Gareth Barry, England, Status: Out For Group Match 1
In his absence, England fans are fretting a Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard pairing in the middle. More so than any other Lion, Barry is the chemist creating elementary linking for the Queen. He’ll be missed until he’s back. Bet on it.
Charlie Davies, Team: United States, Severity: Out For Tournament
The Shin Guardian covered the Charlie Davies situation as ad nauseum. Able to open up vast real estate for Landon Donovan as well as angle nifty breaks for balls played over the top and through the opponent’s backline, the United States has struggled to score from the run-of-play since Davies absence. Will Robbie Findley fill the gap?
Nani, Team: Portugal, Severity: Out For Tournament
Nani, out after injuring his shoulder attempting a bicycle kick, makes it into the Big Impact zone and for one reason alone. Portugal is aging in the middle of the field. Nani was imperative as a threat from the wing to open up the center of the pitch for Portugal’s aging playmaker, Deco.
Square this value by the fact that the Ivory Coast is susceptible to speedy attacks (and plays through the middle itself) and that Brazil loves to flush the wings and no more Nani means no more pinning back opponents’ attacks in the Group of Death.
Michael Ballack, Team: Germany, Severity: Out For The Tournament
As a writer who has castigated the declining skill and deteriorating reputation of the German captain, I still have to admit one thing. On the international stage, Ballack commands the respect of his teammates and the referees. Germany always seems to make it through no matter what holes the machine has.
Will they do it this time without their captain? A huge question. Is Bastion Schweinsteiger ready?
Didier Drogba, Team: Ivory Coast, Severity:TBD
When the Chelsea hitman went down this past Friday, it was feared that his tournament was over. Not so now as the physical striker is working back from minor surgery and hopes to still factor for the Ivory Coast.
When you think World Cup in Africa and you want a signature player, it’s hard to not consider Drogba as the ultimate in that distinction. That being said–and I’ll borrow a page from the Sports Guy’s book–I think that Gervinho and a lack of deferment to the senior Drogba might be a good think for the Cote D’Ivoire, an example of the Ewing Theory at work. Then again, Sven Goran -Erickson is your head coach here. Drogba will be missed.
Salvador Cabanas, Paraguay, Severity: Out For The Tournament
Cabanas, really? Just shy of the top of the list? That’s right. Paraguay is a sneaky team. One that dealt Brazil one of it’s only two losses in qualifying. The kicker, Paraguay played down one for nearly the entire 2nd half.
The Club America striker injured in a nightclub shooting was the emotional leader and talisman for Paraguayan team that was stoic in the back and just needed some of Cabanas mustard in the front to jumpstart the attack.
Without Cabanas stretching the defense–much in the same way Charlie Davies did–the weak midfield for the Guarani will be collapsed on and Paraguay’s chances–even with Roque Santa Cruz manning the point–will be slim.
Michael Essien, Ghana, Severity: Out For The Tournament
Another African stalwart that deserves to be on the pitch for a World Cup in his backyard. Essien is a household name because of his time at Chelsea, but he is the heart-and-soul of the Black Stars.
Essien is so critical for Ghana because, like Maicon, he envelops more than one position at one time. When your team is not used to day-in, day-out drilling for months to prepare, the ability to marshall the teams on the pitch through ability and leadership is vital. Essien will be missed by Ghana, sorely, and they will go home ruing his absence.