20 Players in Danger of Missing out on the World Cup
The World Cup is the planet's biggest festival of football. No player in their right mind, once qualification is secured, would dream of missing the tournament. Unfortunately for some, fate often has different ideas in the months leading up to the extravaganza.
Absence via injury is always a concern as the World Cup inches closer, and every competition sees a few unlucky souls miss out. But who is fighting right now to regain fitness and beat injury just in time to make the plane to Brazil?
USA and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden has long been an outsider to make the squad in time for the World Cup. But his most recent setback means that the Scottish-born star is almost certain to watch the festivities from the comfort of his own home.
The 28-year-old, capped 25 times for the USMNT, lasted just 23 minutes of a youth-team game this March before he was forced off, according to the Bolton Wanderers official website. Holden suffered a recurrence of the cruciate ligament injury suffered during the 2013 Gold Cup final, and could face up to nine months out.
Facing such football talents as Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in the upcoming World Cup, Australia's Socceroos need all the help they can get. The expected unavailability of Bayer Leverkusen star Robbie Kruse, then, is unlikely to go down well in the nation.
Kruse, who has appeared 28 times for his country and hit the net on three occasions, twisted his left knee while training for the German team in January and was later diagnosed with a rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald's Sebastian Hassett, the forward's chances of making Brazil are bleak, robbing Australia of who the reporter calls "arguably their most important player."
Everton fans feared the worst in January when on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku went down in the Liverpool derby. The Chelsea forward had been a revelation at Goodison Park, but possible ligament damage would not only bring an end to his season, it would also end dreams of making the World Cup.
Thankfully, as reported by NBC Sports, the Belgium international only endured a sprain. Lukaku returned to first-team duty at the start of March, and last weekend he emerged unscathed from 90 minutes against Cardiff.
Time is short, but he should have enough games left to regain top form ahead of Brazil.
While Lukaku looks on course to play a starring role in the World Cup, another Everton man is far less certain of arriving at the party. Bryan Oviedo, however, will not give up hope until the last minute.
The Costa Rica defender, as explained in The Guardian, suffered the misfortune of a leg fracture during an FA Cup match against Stevenage in January. All is not lost though; Oviedo is making astonishing progress in his recovery, keeping the dream alive for now.
If Japan international Makoto Hasebe walks out on the pitch for his nation in Brazil, it will be an astounding feat. The midfielder, who plays at club level for Nurnberg in the Bundesliga, has been under the knife not once, but twice already in 2014.
Hasebe underwent two operations on torn knee ligaments after going down injured in a January friendly, according to the Bundesliga's official website. With 70 caps for the Blue Samurai, the player would be a huge loss if he does not recover in time for the World Cup.
After playing such a pivotal role for Borussia Dortmund during their march to the Champions League final last season, 2013/14 has been nothing short of a disaster for Ilkay Gundogan. The combative playmaker has barely figured this year, laid low by serious injury.
The Germany international has not played a first-team match since September due to a back problem, and in January sporting director Michael Zorc told Kicker his return was still unknown (via ESPN FC). With fierce competition in midfield for Germany, the 23-year-old star may be too late to win a place this time round.
If Gundogan's chances of muscling his way from the treatment table to the World Cup are slim, Holger Badstuber's prospects are decidedly anaemic. The defender has not played a competitive game since December 2012, and a return before Brazil 2014 is very much touch and go.
Last May, as reported by ESPN FC, Badstuber suffered a new tear in his cruciate ligaments, further pushing back his recovery schedule. Merely returning to Bayern Munich action would be an achievement in the current season; the World Cup could be out of reach.
Injuries incurred while a player is on international duty are the bane of every club coach. In a World Cup year, as is the case for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, they are also a source of headaches for the national team boss himself.
Wilshere, as detailed by Goal, fractured his foot in England's last run-out against Denmark and was ruled out for a minimum of six weeks. The young star is expected to make his reappearance in May, leaving him just a matter of days to prove his worth ahead of Brazil.
The immediate future appears anything but bright for Toronto FC's talented forward, who was on the verge of winning a place in the Nigeria team. A serious injury, however, has put the brakes on his hopes of making the plane for Brazil 2014.
Goal USA's Ivar Galercep revealed that Dike had suffered a torn achilles in February, leaving the twice-capped Super Eagle on the sidelines and almost certainly out of the World Cup.
Armindo Tue Na Bangna, known better as Bruma, is one of the hottest talents to come out of Portugal since a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo was spotted on the island of Madeira. But the Galatasaray prodigy is likely to see his dreams of a first World Cup dashed by misfortune.
101 Great Goals reports that the 19-year-old prospect suffered a season-halting ligament rupture during a January cup tie for the Turkish giants. Although Bruma himself has not recognised the end of his Brazil hopes, it would take a monumental effort to come back so soon.
With 14 goals so far this season for Fiorentina, Giuseppe Rossi has been one of the revelations of the Serie A season. But the former Manchester United striker faces an uphill battle to make the World Cup with full fitness.
Rossi tore knee ligaments in January, and right from the start he knew it would be touch and go whether he arrived in time for Brazil. Latest reports, courtesy of Football Italia, suggest that his recovery is ahead of schedule; if he does regain fitness, Rossi's talents will be a big boost for Italy.
Chile powerhouse Humberto Suazo is no stranger to injury strife in a World Cup year. During 2010, the Monterrey man could not show his best as he continued his recovery; could lightning strike twice with a repeat four years later?
La Tercera confirmed in January (via Soccerly) that Chupete would be out of action for up to four months after undergoing shoulder surgery. Suazo should make the squad for Brazil, but at 34 years of age, it is hard to gauge how much of an effect this latest injury will have.
While he has rarely been a headline stealer for the Spain national team, Real Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa has been a steady presence throughout the last six golden years. Two European Championships and a World Cup-winners medal can attest to that fact.
The news that he may miss out on Brazil, therefore, is of grave concern to the Furia Roja. The Daily Star reports that an injury suffered in March would keep Arbeloa out until almost the end of the season, putting in doubt his participation and chance to win a second World Cup.
Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson has certainly had to battle in order to regain fitness this year. The former Portsmouth man and regular England international overcame a double injury to reclaim his place in the Reds line-up; but will his fitness last?
The Daily Star reports that Johnson recovered from groin and ankle complaints at the end of February, problems that had kept him out for over a month. With the Premier League hurtling to a close, all eyes will be on the defender to see if he can resist the physical strain and make it to the World Cup in one piece.
Roma's recent defeat to rivals in the upper reaches of Serie A, Napoli, was made worse by a serious injury. Midfielder Kevin Strootman went down early in that clash, and the news was devastating for both club and country.
As relayed by The Guardian, Strootman tore cartilage in his left knee and is almost certain to miss the World Cup for the Netherlands. Facing Spain, Chile and Australia meant the Oranje were guaranteed a tricky competition; without their young star, it could be much more difficult.
While the Brazil team has slowly taken shape over the past four-year cycle of friendlies and tours, there is one position still with all to play for. The men entrusted with anchoring the Selecao midfield at a home World Cup are still unknown, with Liverpool's Lucas Leiva a strong candidate for the role.
Of course, the midfielder will first have to prove his fitness should he wish to make the cut. As explained by The Mirror's David Maddock, Lucas spent the last month out of action with a knee injury, and he will hope to avoid any recurrences so close to the tournament.
The 2013/14 season has been little more than an exercise in frustration for Sami Khedira. Finally nearing recovery, however, the Real Madrid and Germany midfielder will hope to salvage a year spent on the sidelines by pushing his way back into World Cup contention.
Khedira suffered a cruciate ligament tear last November while on international duty against Italy, as reported by NBC, and has still not played a competitive game since. He is expected to return to Madrid action shortly, but has precious little time to prove himself before Brazil.
Theo Walcott's speed and creativity makes him a key part of the England setup. Roy Hodgson's men will be undoubtedly bruised by the news that the Arsenal winger is almost certain to miss out in Brazil 2014.
Walcott was forced to undergo cruciate ligament surgery at the start of the year, and told the Daily Telegraph that he was "learning to walk again." England do have other options out wide, but his absence is a further negative ahead of what will be a tough World Cup campaign.
Alongside Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero forms part of Argentina's holy trinity of forward firepower. El Kun's fitness, however, remains a concern for Albiceleste coach Alejandro Sabella just months before the World Cup.
A hamstring complaint that is currently keeping Aguero on the sidelines is just the latest in a string of injuries suffered in 2013/14. The star should regain fitness ahead of the tournament, but his overall condition will be in question after repeated setbacks.
There is no doubt that the World Cup will be a poorer place if Colombia superstar Radamel Falcao is absent. The Monaco forward, however, runs the risk of missing out on his first tournament due to injury.
Falcao had the misfortune of tearing his anterior cruciate ligaments during a Coupe de France match back in January, and is a major doubt. The player is fighting against the clock to make the World Cup, according to the BBC, but his presence will go down to the wire.