Lars Bender's World Cup journey has been brought to a premature end after a thigh injury was revealed to have ruled him out for next month's tournament in Brazil.
Just two days into Germany's preparations for the competition, Bender was forced to retire from Joachim Low's 27-man provisional squad, per Reuters (h/t The Guardian):
Germany’s Lars Bender ruled out of World Cup with thigh injury http://t.co/fioJ6K3kHZ— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) May 23, 2014
The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder looked likely to be included in Low's final 23-man roster, with WhoScored.com pointing toward the steel he would have provided the team in the middle of the park:
Lars Bender: Has made at least 52 more tackles (338) than any other player in the Bundesliga in the last 3 seasons— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 23, 2014
However, Die Mannschaft will now have to go without Bender's services in their engine room, which as BT Sport's Raphael Honigstein indicates, hasn't been the nation's only concern of late:
Lars Bender out of the World Cup. Dropping like flies.— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) May 23, 2014
Low will be buoyed by the news that Philipp Lahm is edging closer to joining up with his compatriots in their northern Italy training camp, per Agence France-Presse (h/t NDTV.com), while the Express reports that Bastian Schweinsteiger has been cleared to participate.
However, there still remains some uncertainty regarding the fitness of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, striving to recover from a shoulder injury, along with Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira.
Ahead of Saturday's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan quotes Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti in saying that it's merely a lack of match fitness that limits Khedira at present:
Ancelotti: "Khedira has not played many games, that’s only problem he has. He has no problems with his knee, he is ready to play."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) May 20, 2014
Germany will take what positives they can from the news that two figures as essential as Lahm and Schweinsteiger are improving, but the loss of Bender, something of a specialist in his particular craft, is still damaging to Low's options.
Germany face Portugal, Ghana and the United States in that order next month, where they'll look to come out of Group G with first-place credentials in their favour.
Low's outfit are being eyed as one of the tournament favourites to succeed in Brazil, but they will still need every asset available to them if they're to prevail in the South American conditions.