WORLD CUP WATCH: Club season ready to pause, injuries mount
One more week.
That’s the time coaches of World Cup teams need to wait before they finally get their hands on their players ahead of a truncated build-up to the tournament in Qatar.
Some players might have checked out from club play already.
Like Argentina forward Lionel Messi, who missed Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Lorient in the French league on Sunday as a precaution because of what the team cited as inflammation on his Achilles tendon. It remains to be seen if he plays again for PSG before the World Cup, which starts on Nov. 20.
Likewise for prolific Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who didn’t play for Fulham against Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday because of what his manager, Marco Silva, said was “a little bit” of ankle pain. Will he want to play against Manchester United on Sunday?
Then there’s Germany veteran Thomas Müller, who wasn’t risked — again — for Bayern Munich’s 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin in the German league on Saturday following various injuries and illnesses and will be rested, according to coach Julian Nagelsmann, for games against Werder Bremen on Tuesday and Schalke on Saturday to avoid risking a further injury setback.
Indeed, with league and cup games being played during midweek and over the weekend in England, Spain, Italy and Germany, expect to see a slew of World Cup-bound players absent from lineups for precautionary reasons.
Many World Cup squad announcements take place this week, before a final round of domestic league games from Friday to Sunday. National team coaches will have their fingers crossed that no injuries crop up over the weekend, with clubs obliged to release their players for World Cup duty from Monday.
For some, it’s too late. Germany striker Timo Werner tore an ankle ligament playing for Leipzig last week in the Champions League and was ruled out of the World Cup. On the same night, Ben Chilwell — one of the two players fighting over the left back spot for England — sustained a hamstring injury playing for Chelsea and won’t be going to Qatar.
France midfielder Paul Pogba’s long-time quest to recover full fitness for the World Cup was dashed last week, too, when, he was ruled out of the tournament.
As for Son Heung-min, arguably the biggest soccer star in Asia, he sustained a broken eye socket on Champions League duty for Tottenham and is a doubt for the World Cup. South Korea fans are waiting with hope, maybe trepidation, for fitness bulletins on their top player.
With so many club games in different competitions squeezed into the calendar to accommodate a mid-season World Cup, there’s a strong likelihood of more players picking up an eve-of-tournament injury.
One player whose club commitments are over for now is Gareth Bale, who will head to Qatar as a league champion in the United States but with some nagging fitness concerns — as always seems to be the case with the Wales captain.
Bale’s first competitive minutes in more than a month came for Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup final on Saturday — and he marked them with a tying goal late in extra time to take the game against the Philadelphia Union to a penalty shootout. LAFC went on to win its first league title.
After the game, Bale said he was “not 100% at the moment” because of a “slight issue” and hadn’t trained much over the past three to four weeks.
It will take much more than that to stop Bale from playing at his first World Cup, and Wales’ first since 1958.
There’s not much luck being a Switzerland goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup squad being named Wednesday.
With Yvon Mvogo going off injured playing for Lorient against PSG, all three goalkeepers named in the previous Swiss squad in September are now out of action.
Yann Sommer, the undisputed first choice, and Jonas Omlin both sustained ankle injuries in October playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Montpellier, respectively.
Sommer told Swiss daily Blick his prospects for the World Cup look good, though he seems unlikely to get game time before the Group G opener against Cameroon on Nov. 24. Brazil and Serbia are also in the group.
Switzerland coach Murat Yakin at least has another option, Gregor Kobel, playing in standout form in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund.
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