Excitement is growing as the big kick off for the World Cup in Qatar draws closer and all 32 teams are due to name their squads in a matter of weeks. But this also means every single piece of injury news is being met with huge trepidation.
Playing at a World Cup is the pinnacle of professional footballers. It is their dream to represent their country at the biggest stage. Therefore, seemingly innocuous injuries are now leaving them facing an anxious race against time to regain fitness before the tournament starts.
The English Premier League is breaking off only one week before Qatar and Ecuador kick things off in Doha on November 20. This sadly means there is ample time for key players to potentially pick up knocks and miss out on the showpiece event. And that is the last thing anyone wants.
Gareth Southgate’s England have been tipped to bring home the iconic trophy after they made it to the semi-final of the 2018 tournament before suffering defeat to Croatia. But their squad will be badly depleted following the loss of defenders Reece James and Kyle Walker. James was the favourite to start at right back as the Chelsea man not only is solid at defending but he is excellent going forwards too. But now Southgate will likely only have two options to fill that position – Keiron Trippier and Trent Alexader-Arnold – and neither are known for their defensive abilities. So already the team appears weakened, on paper at least.
Another big loss is midfielder Kalvin Phillips who has undergone shoulder surgery while his Manchester City team-mate John Stones has missed much of this season and if he is selected he might not be totally up to speed or match fit which would be detrimental to the side. I have long been calling for the selection of Everton captain Conor Coady. The former Wolves centre back is a born leader and has been in fine form for several seasons. He must be on the plane to Qatar.
Meanwhile, current champions France will have a big void to fill in the middle of the pitch as Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante has been ruled out following an operation on a hamstring injury he picked up in August. Boubacar Kamara is also out while Wesley Fofana is a major doubt. They too, like England, look a lot weaker now and could find the going tough.
The favourites are Brazil but there had been fears that Richarlison would miss the tournament after he suffered an injury in Tottenham’s win over Everton last week. Coach Antonio Conte said the forward should return to action before the tournament which is good news for us as we want to see the biggest names in world football face off against each other for international glory.
We have already suffered a massive blow what with Norway’s Erling Haaland and Egypt’s Mo Salah not making the trip to the Middle East due to their countries failure to qualify. These two have been in incredible form for Man City and Liverpool respectively and would have lit up the tournament.
Italy also failed to make it which was another setback for the competition because that means there’ll be no Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Manuel Locatelli or Gianluigi Donnarumma on show.
Teams are dealing with injuries to key players but it was always going to be this way. The Qatar World Cup is kicking off right in the middle of the league season of countries all over the world and the injury risk was huge. Due to Qatar’s intense summer heat, this World Cup is being held at the end of the year making it the first tournament not to take place in May, June, or July. This notion was initially met with opposition from the majority of competing nations, due its impact on domestic European seasons. But, it’s happening and there’s nothing anyone can say about it now.
But, the World Cup needs to have the best players competing and if any more pick up injuries and are ruled out, then the tournament could be less of a spectacle.