The missing World Cup XI
You could go for a three-pronged attack of Nani, Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben. How about Michael Ballack, David Beckham, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien in your midfield? And build your defence around Rio Ferdinand.
Welcome to a new kind of Fantasy Football — the World Cup Injured XI.
I haven’t yet scoured the statistics books, but veterans in the game cannot remember a World Cup so badly hit by injuries to big names before it even started. Not all of them are out for the whole tournament, of course, but some big names are , and what a shame the first World Cup on the continent has already lost so much star power.
So what’s the reason for all these injuries? Is it simply an older generation past its prime? Are players simply less tough than their predecessors? Are the modern physical demands too much? Or is just bad luck?
As you theorise, pick your XI from the increasing list of fantastic players on the injury-table. Here’s a first stab from my colleague Patrick Johnston, with a few overlooked players thrown in to make it a real Missing World Cup XI:
Goalkeeper: Rene Adler – Germany’s first-choice goalkeeper was forced to withdraw from the preliminary squad after requiring rib surgery.
Does Javier Zanetti ever have a bad game? He has just won a treble with Inter and has won 136 caps for his country but Maradona won’t be giving him the opportunity to win some more in South Africa. Alex has enjoyed another solid season for Premier League champions Chelsea but it hasn’t been enough to be included in the Brazil squad by Dunga. Then there’s Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender who would have captained the England team were it not for his injury (see the pic).
Nani is a huge loss for Portugal and how he must be regretting that acrobatic overhead kick in training that cost him his place. Michael Ballack may not have had his finest season for English champions Chelsea but the injured German captain is a consistent performer on the international stage with a fabulous goalscoring record.
David Beckham– The former England captain ruptured his Achilles tendon playing for AC Milan back in March. Although Beckham is no longer considered a starter for England, coach Fabio Capello said he would have selected the Los Angeles Galaxy player, whose set piece delivery is still world class. Michael Essien: The injury that cost this influential midfielder his place was described as catastrophic by his coach in the Ghana team.
Antonio Cassano is one of Serie A’s most gifted players but the Sampdoria striker won’t be able to help an Italian side lacking creativity in South Africa. The former AS Roma and Real Madrid striker has been ignored for two years and chose to arrange his wedding during the finals.
The knees may be creaking but Ruud van Nistelrooy is still a fantastic goal scorer. Once again the Dutch bring a strong squad to a World Cup but I can’t help wondering if leaving out someone who has a phenomenal scoring like Van Nistelrooy and opting for Dirk Kuyt is a mistake.
PHOTO: England’s Rio Ferdinand watches during a World Cup soccer training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg, June 8, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples