World Cup Watch: Injuries play part again, Jones confident
With just over three weeks to go before the World Cup begins, speculation as to who will be on a plane to Brazil is mounting. As the season winds down, let’s take a look at the latest player updates ahead of the tournament’s start on June 12th.
Falcao lacking full fitness
Star Colombian striker Radamel Falcao (22/1 to be tournament top scorer) suffered a devastating knee ligament injury in January, ending his season for his club Monaco and putting his World Cup in the balance. Now his father claims he is 60 per cent recovered but still some way short of his full potential.
Falcao senior has gone on record saying: “What he lacks is endurance, strength, speed and co-ordination – fundamental things for a high-performance football player.”
Although Colombian football fans will be hopeful of a swift recovery, it remains to be seen whether Falcao, who joined Monaco last summer for £50m, will be fit enough to join his team mates for their opening game against Greece on June 14th.
Costa injury creates World Cup worry
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa (25/1 tournament top scorer) is a World Cup doubt after going off injured in his team’s title deciding match against Barcelona.
Costa, recently cleared to play for Spain ahead of his native Brazil, was openly devastated after a recurring hamstring injury forced him to be substituted after just 16 minutes of the 1-1 draw that crowned Atletico as Spanish champions.
He will be a serious doubt for the Champions League final with arch-rivals Real Madrid and may struggle to be at full fitness in time for the World Cup.
Djourou in doubt after neck injury
Switzerland defender Johan Djourou has also suffered a potentially World Cup-ending neck injury, playing in Hamburg’s relegation decider against second division Greuther Furth.
Djourou was stretchered off in the 31st minute after a fall, and Hamburg sporting director Oliver Kreuzer later confirmed he had damaged a neck vertebra.
If the former Arsenal player does not recover in time for the tournament, his place is likely to be filled by 26-year-old Wolfsburg centre back Timm Klose.
French goalkeeper Mandanda out through injury
France’s number two keeper Steve Mandanda has been ruled out of the World Cup following a neck injury in his final game of the season.
The 29-year-old cracked a vertebra in his neck whilst playing for Marseille, and later confirmed on Twitter that he would be unable to go to the tournament. He will be replaced by St Etienne stopper Stephane Ruffier, who will be called into action should first choice (and national captain) Hugo Lloris be injured or suspended.
Phil Jones bullish on England’s prospects
Although the media have largely written off The Three Lions’ World Cup chances, England and Manchester United utility man Phil Jones says they are good enough to win it.
Commenting on widespread pessimism, Jones retorted that “there’s no point getting on the plane unless we think we are going to go far”, and argued that there was “great belief and confidence” in the squad.
He went on to say: “We know that if we play at our best then on any day we can beat any team,” adding himself to the growing list of England players who have expressed renewed confidence and hope ahead of the tournament.