Colombia forward Radamel Falcao became the latest prominent player to miss the World Cup for injury reasons while the likes of Franck Ribery, Luis Suarez and Diego Costa hope to be fit to play.
Colombian coach Jose Pekerman left Falcao out of his final 23-player squad on Monday because he has not fully recovered for the June 12-July 13 tournament in Brazil from a cruciate knee ligament rupture he sustained in January.
The dreams of going to Brazil ended in even harsher fashion for others, with midfielders Ricardo Montolivo of Italy and Luis Montes of Mexico suffering leg fractures in weekend warm-up games.
Dutch veteran Rafael van der Vaart had to withdraw from the squad last week with a calf muscle problem and Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara was ruled out last month with a knee problem.
Belgium’s Christian Benteke and England forward Theo Walcott are among other players sidelined with injury from the World Cup.
France fear that Ribery could be the next casualty if a back injury also prevents him from playing in the final tune-up game against Jamaica on Sunday.
Coach Didier Deschamps remained upbeat even though the Bayern Munich winger has already missed the weekend game against Paraguay.
“It is our first aim to field him on Sunday in Lille,” Deschamps said.
But he may be weighing his options because coaches only have until the eve of their teams’ first game to replace an injured player.
France play their first game against Honduras on June 15.
Liverpool and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez also faces a race against time in his recovery from a meniscus injury sustained in training two weeks ago.
He underwent arthroscopic surgery, started light training on Monday and vowed on Twitter “I will be there” for Uruguay’s World Cup campaign which starts on June 14 against Costa Rica.
Costa has been a doubt for Spain ever since the striker limped out of Atletico Madrid’s championship-winning season-ender at Barcelona, and then latest a mere nine minutes in the May 24 Champions League final against Real Madrid.
He departed with the team for the U.S. on Monday and said “I believe I will make it for (the World Cup start June 13 against) the Netherlands and for the friendly in Washington (Saturday against El Salvador) as well.” More than a handful of other players also contribute to the list of ailing who’s-whos in world football, although to a lesser extent.
World footballer Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal has not been fully fit lately over a hamstring problem, Brazil star Neymar is back from a foot injury but lacking competitive games, and Germany coach Joachim Loew hopes to have his Bayern Munich trio of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger fit in time for the World Cup.
While a 2013 study named “Fatigue and Team Performance in Soccer” found no evidence that fatigue affects a general team performance at a big tournament there are indications that a gruelling calendar and the speed of the current game make players more prone to injuries.
“The number of overuse injuries is rising significantly,” Raymond Best, the team doctor of German club VfB Stuttgart and medical officer for the 2006 World Cup games in Stuttgart, told Saturday’s edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
“The overuse affects especially those club teams who play until the end in all competitions, and those are the teams featuring the national team players from the big nations.”