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The all-star XI in World Cup trouble
Some of football’s biggest names, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are in danger of missing out on next year’s World Cup, as countries such as Argentina, Portugal and France struggle in qualification.
Most, if not quite all of them, may make it in the end, of course, but for a bit of pre-weekend qualifier fun, here’s my stab at a world XI wtill fretting over their places at South Africa 2010.
Think I’ve got it about right? Missed anyone out? Let me know in the comments.
Petr Cech (Czech Republic): The Chelsea keeper is arguably the best in the business, but the Czech Republic are currently fourth in group three and could be eliminated on Saturday if results go against them.
Patrice Evra (France): The left back could pick up his fourth consecutive Premier League crown with Manchester United this season, but he could miss out on the World Cup with France currently second in their group behind Serbia and hoping for a play-off place at a realistic best.
Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium): The former Ajax defender has enjoyed a superb opening to the season since completing a move to Arsenal, but he will not get the chance to showcase his talents in South Africa after Belgium were eliminated from their qualifying group.
Dmytro Chygrynskiy (Ukraine): Barcelona paid €25 million for the former Shakhtar Donetsk defender, but Ukraine will need to overhaul Croatia in Group Six for the centre back to stand a chance of playing in the World Cup.
Christian Chivu (Romania): The Inter defender was a €16 million signing for Serie A champions Inter in 2007 and has since won consecutive Italian titles. But his Romania side need to beat Serbia on Saturday for them to stand any chance of making the finals.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina): The Argentina captain is one of the most highly regarded holding midfielders in the world, but his team have suffered an accident-prone qualifying campaign that has left them fifth in their group, clinging on to a play-off place.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): The World Footballer of the Year became the most expensive player in history when he completed his move to Real Madrid from Manchester United. With Portugal currently third in their qualifying group, he could be the biggest absentee from this summer’s tournament.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): The miniature magician has lit up pitches across Europe for Barcelona, but he is another who could be absent from South Africa, if Argentina cannot get results from their final two group games against Peru and Uruguay.
Franck Ribery (France): He was reportedly being lined up by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo after some devastating displays in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich. But France are currently four points behind Serbia in their group, and are likely to need the play-offs to make it to the finals.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo): The Togo international has courted controversy since leaving Arsenal for Manchester City, but has proved an instant hit at his new club. His country, however, are currently third in their qualifying group behind Cameroon and Gabon with only two games left to play.
Karim Benzema (France): The France striker’s move to Real Madrid was overshadowed by the signings of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, but he has made an early impact at the Bernabeu. He may not have the same effect in South Africa, however, with France needing to beat Faroe Islands just to guarantee a play-off place.
Coach: Giovanni Trapattoni: Trap is one of the most successful coaches in the history of club football having won 10 league titles in four different countries. But as manager of Republic of Ireland, he needs to beat the country of his birth on Saturday to stand any chance of winning the group and booking a spot in South Africa.
Let me know in the comments if you disagree with my choice…
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi shake hands before the start of the Champions League final soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Rome May 27, 2009. REUTERS/Albert Gea