10 Players Who Damaged World Cup Hopes in This Week's International Friendlies

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

10 Players Who Damaged World Cup Hopes in This Week's International Friendlies

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    As the World Cup approaches, the international friendlies have started to come thick and fast.

    Groups are gelling, squads are acclimatising, and teams are being decided. For most players, this is seen as the optimum time to make a positive impression.

    However, for some players, things don't go quite to plan. Injuries or just subpar displays can be extremely costly at this point in the preparation.

    Go to the next slide to discover which 10 players damaged their World Cup chances in the past week.

Raheem Sterling, England

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    Raheem Sterling lasted just 15 minutes on the field against Ecuador before being sent off for a dangerous tackle on Antonio Valencia. The subsequent suspension ruled him out of England's final friendly against Honduras.

    Although Roy Hodgson has since insisted he will not hold Sterling's rash tackle against him, the loss of an opportunity to impress in the third and final friendly was undoubtedly a blow.

Riccardo Montolivo, Italy

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    A week ago, Riccardo Montolivo was ruled out of the World Cup after breaking his shin bone in a friendly match with Ireland. The 29-year-old will be devastated to be forced to miss what could prove to be his final World Cup.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, England

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    For much of the friendly against Ecuador, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked well on his way to earning a place in England's World Cup starting XI.

    However, a knee injury now threatens to rob him of participating in the tournament. His loss would be a huge blow to Roy Hodgson, especially given Raheem Sterling's demonstrable lack of experience.

Oscar, Brazil

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    Brazil were booed off at half-time during their friendly against Serbia. With the score tied at 0-0, the fans were frustrated in the extreme.

    Much of that frustration was directed at Chelsea's Oscar, who was withdrawn for Willian before the second-half began.

    Oscar has some excuses. He is short of match fitness, and is still recovering from the stress of overseeing the birth of a baby daughter. However, he is running out of time to prove he should be Brazil's key playmaker for the tournament.

Marco Reus, Germany

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    After injuring his ankle during Germany's 6-1 win over Armenia, Marco Reus will miss the World Cup. It is a bitter blow for Germany, who have come to rely somewhat on Reus' speed and intelligent movement.

    The Germans will hope that the likes of Lukas Podolski, who has impressed in their warm-up friendlies, will be able to fill the considerable gap left by Reus' absence.

Peter Odemwingie, Nigeria

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    Stoke City striker Peter Odemwingie was selected to play as a No. 10 for Nigeria in their friendly against Greece. The match descended in to a dour snore-fest, with Odemwingie failing to spark in the crucial creative role.

    Nigeria do not have an obvious player to fill the play-making berth, but this was not a convincing audition from Odemwingie.

Chris Smalling, England

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    Chris Smalling was handed an opportunity to state his case for place in the England team against Ecuador. However, throughout the 90 minutes he looked uncomfortable and lacking in confidence.

    Smalling's uncertain display ensures he will only be used by Roy Hodgson in an emergency.

Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

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    Mexico's friendly with Portugal was the setting for a battle between two goalkeepers. Jesus Corona played the first half, with Guillermo Ochoa being granted the second.

    It seems Corono has edged ahead of Ochoa, helped by a pair of excellent saves in the 13th and 22nd minutes of the game. Ochoa may just have to bide his time.


Mesut Ozil, Germany

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    After Germany's 2-2 draw with Cameroon, Mesut Ozil was criticised by former international Michael Ballack. Speaking to the Daily Mail (h/t Sky Sports), Ballack said:

    I saw him play for the national team at the weekend and I was not surprised, not scared, but a little bit concerned, by his performances.

    He has done well for Germany and he played well during the qualifying campaign but in the last few months - since his move to Arsenal - he has not been the same player, in terms of his confidence, that we used to see in the national team.

    Ozil is unlikely to be dropped by Joachim Low, but for the sake of his pride must hope he can recover to show his best form in Brazil.


James Milner, England

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    Against Ecuador, James Milner was fielded in a new right-back role. With Glen Johnson in indifferent form, this was seen as a chance for Milner to state his case to a regular place in the starting XI.

    However, Milner looked disorientated by the unfamiliar deployment, and gave an unusually erratic display. He might remain a reliable midfielder, but does not yet look a dependable defender.