FIFA World Cup: The sad tale of crippling injuries and broken dreams
Neymar has luckily recovered after fracturing his foot but the FIFA World Cup history is fraught with examples who couldn’t.football Updated: May 26, 2018 13:33 IST
A fractured foot in a match against Marseille in March had the whole of Brazil hold its collective breath as favourite son Neymar was racing against clock to be fit for the World Cup. Fortunately, it looks like he is going to make it, Just! But, how fit is he going to be is anybody’s guess.
Many players however haven’t been so lucky and won’t be boarding the plane to Russia. The biggest casualty this time perhaps is Dani Alves. The Brazil defender is one of the most decorated footballers of all time but the World Cup has eluded him. At 35, it would have been his swansong but it wasn’t to be. Not only is it a big loss for him but considering how important full-backs are to the Selecao, it’s a bigger blow for the team.
Another player who won’t be kicking the ball in anger in Russia is French defender Laurent Koscielny. The Arsenal defender ruptured his Achilles heel against Atletico Madrid in a Europa League clash. His experience would have come in extremely handy for a Les Blues defence that has been found wanting against stronger opposition.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez are two players who would have been selected for England had luck been on their side. Injuries of course aren’t restricted to the big players. Some of the lesser known too have had their dreams trampled on.
Youssef Mskani, Mathias Corujo, Danilo Perira and Aleksandr Kokorin will all be praying their teams do well rather than doing anything about it.
It isn’t the first time that a player will be missing football’s showpiece event. In the previous editions as well players have succumbed to injuries, sometimes freak, to be forced to miss the vent.
Brazil went on to win the 2002 World Cup held in Korea and Japan and Cafu lifted the trophy. However if things had gone according to plans, Roma midfielder Emerson should have lifted the trophy. Just before their opening match, Emerson injured his shoulder playing in goal. Another player who missed out on a winners’ medal is German Marco Reus. The midfielder hurt his ankle in a friendly against Armenia just before the start of the 2014 World Cup.
French legend Just Fontaine scored a record 13 goals in six matches at the 1958 World Cup. He was however not part of the first team and only got his chance after first choice Rene Bliard hurt his ankle in training — classic case of how one man’s misfortune can be other’s opportunity.
Injuries don’t always happen due to horror tackles or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes it can happen in the freakiest of ways. Spain goalkeeper Santiago Canizares severed a tendon in his toe after breaking an aftershave bottle before the 2002 World Cup.
Other notable players to have missed out on the World Cup include Michael Ballack (Germany) and David Beckham (England) during the 2010 edition in South Africa. While there have been countless others like Marco van Basten (Holland), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Pep Guardiola (Spain) whose dreams too have been shattered.
With the tournament getting ever closer, players will be more desperate trying not to jeopardise their chances of playing. Making sure any black cats don’t cross their paths or trying to not walk under a ladder could be a few measures adopted. And spectators too would be hoping that they get to see the best players representing their countries.
Midfielder - England Ever since moving to Liverpool from Arsenal in August 2017, he has been a different player. And that form has carried on with international duty too. He has pace, can pass, can run with the ball to take pressure off defenders, score from long as well as close range. His versatility allows England to change formations and truth be told there is no other English midfielder who offers what the 24-year-old does.
Goalkeeper -Argentina Even though he has played second fiddle to David de Gea at Manchester United, he has been the undisputed No. 1 for Argentina, playing all 12 of their matches in last two editions of the World Cup. He had saved two penalties in the semi-final shoot-out of the 2014 World Cup against Holland. His absence due to knee injury puts added pressure on the backup goalies.
Midfielder -Sweden He scored the only goal of the two-legged playoff with Italy in November. Failing to recover from a knee injury suffered in the second leg though has put paid to Johansson’s chances of playing in Russia. Composed when in possession and also a good tackler, his versatility would have come in handy.
Striker -Germany Germany have an abundance of riches but Stindl would have offered another option in the bench. Given he is the captain of Borussia Monchengladbach, he would have been a good character to have around a young squad. His absence due to an ankle injury heaps more pressure on the likes of Timo Werner, Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller.
Defender -France Out due to an Achilles injury, Koscielny leaves a relatively young France squad, especially in defence. He has been part of the team for seven years and has played big tournaments. A good passer, Koscielny reads the game well and has the pace to cover in case something goes wrong. He was the undisputed No. 1 and his know-how and leadership skills are something the French defence could be missing big time in the World Cup.
Defender - Brazil Alves is a vital cog in manager Tite’s tactics and that is highlighted by the fact he has played more or less every minute of a meaningful game since his appointment. He could have added experience to a relatively young squad. Full-backs have been crucial to how well Brazil do and history is littered with names played a pivotal role in Brazil’s success. Dani Alves is no different.