The start of the 2014 World Cup is less than a month away, and managers all over the world are finalising their squads as they finish preparations for football's biggest tournament.
Any injury or wrong decision can be vital at this stage, and, with that in mind, we'll have a look at some of the latest developments and how they could impact the group stages during the upcoming World Cup.
Full group stage predictions
|Final standings||Group A||Final standings||Group E|
|Group B||Group F|
|3||Netherlands||3||Bosnia & Herzegovina|
|Group C||Group G|
|Group D||Group H|
The striker is currently recovering in his native Uruguay after having keyhole surgery on a knee problem, which looked set to rule him out of action this summer.
But after positive comments emerged from the Uruguay FA, Suarez has apparently told supporters that he expects to be fit to face England on June 19.
The striker made the comments while seated in a hospital wheelchair, a scary sight for fans who'd rather see the Liverpool man in training with his teammates.
While his comments to the fans are a cause for hope, the fact his readiness for the match against England was even in question indicates his preparation for the World Cup will effectively be ruined.
Suarez enjoyed a phenomenal season at Liverpool, sharing the European Golden Boot with Cristiano Ronaldo as co-top scorers with 31 goals each, as shared by Football Stuff:
The European Golden Boot will be shared by Ronaldo and Suarez as both stars ended the domestic campaign at 31 goals. pic.twitter.com/BCOoFjzQs9— Football Stuff (@FootbalIStuff) May 19, 2014
The forward must have been hoping to carry that momentum into the tournament, hoping to better the team's semi-final appearance of four years ago.
But rather than a question of form, Suarez is now a question of health. The striker will not have time to get himself to 100%, and that will greatly impact his country's chances of surviving a difficult group which also includes Italy and England.
USA's chances of progressing beyond the group stages received a big boost when news broke that Lars Bender will be withdrawing from Germany's World Cup squad with a thigh injury, as reported by FIFA.
Manager Joachim Low spoke to the German Football Association website on the player's injury, and how sorry he was for Bender, via FIFA.com:
When a player drops out just before the start of a tournament with an injury, then it's disappointing for everyone.
I am personally very sorry for Lars and I know he really wanted to be in Brazil. In terms of his performances and character he is a absolute role model.
Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney explained why the news is particularly bad news for Die Mannschaft:
A year ago, seemed Germany would have WC's best DMs. Now Gündogan, both Benders out, Khedira & Basti recovering from injury. Repeat of 2010— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) May 23, 2014
Bastian Schweinsteiger is the default starter as an enforcer in midfield, but he too has struggled with injuries in 2014 and could be at less than 100% going into the World Cup.
Matthias Ginter is another option, but the youngster lacks experience at the highest level and is more comfortable playing in the centre of the defence than one line forward.
Without a dominant ball-winning presence in midfield, Germany could have difficulties controlling quick breaks from Portugal, Ghana and the USA. All three teams will be travelling to Brazil with athletic squads, and, with no top defensive midfielders to protect against the counter, one of the tournament favourites could be in trouble.
Speaking of the USA, Jurgen Klinsmann's decision not to take Landon Donovan to the World Cup is not as odd as some fans would think.
The veteran forward was one of the team's most experienced and decorated players, and he played a vital role in growing the sport in the United States. But that growth has resulted in a new generation of players, and, if the sport wishes to keep growing in the country, these youngsters should get their chance at the highest level.
For his part, Donovan remained supportive of his teammates, even if he couldn't hide the disappointment of missing out in the 2014 World Cup in a message he posted on his Facebook account:
To my fans,
It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the US National Team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with today’s decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the US in the years to come.
Thanks for all your support,
The inclusion of 18-year-old Julian Green at the expense of someone like Donovan might seem curious, and, with an eye on the upcoming tournament, one could assume the veteran would have had more of a direct impact.
But with one eye on the horizon, Klinsmann made the right decision. The USMNT may be slightly weakened going into the tournament, but it will only grow stronger from this point forward.