World Cup injury update: Italy defender out, Ronaldo on ice
What are the prospects of crocked superstars recovering in time for the tournament in Brazil?
The World Cup has finally begun, but with the greatest show on earth now in full swing, players and fans alike still live in fear of the tournament-ending injury.
The perils of the training camp and the World Cup warm-up are well documented. England fans will remember the saga of David Beckham and Wayne Rooney's broken metatarsals in the build-up to major tournaments.
But now that the action in underway, full-blooded tackles are flying in and the risk of injury is even greater than before. Every cramp, collision and stubbed toe among the game's elite will be greeted with hysterical medical assessments of their chances of being fit for the next game:
Mattia De Sciglio: AC Milan and ItalyInjury: Thigh strainWhen injured: World Cup trainingDue back: Before the end of the monthProspects: Will miss England gameThe young left back pulled up in training in Portobello on Thursday and was taken to hospital for a scan on his right thigh. The results showed only a muscle strain - "an oedema in his left femoral biceps", according to Italiam medics.
Although the injury will prevent him from playing against England it will not end his tournament, and he expected to be fit again in time for the match against Costa Rica on 20 June. His expected recovery means that he will not be replaced in the Italian squad, and manager Cesare Prandelli may have to play centre-back Giorgio Chiellini on the left against England on Saturday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid and PortugalInjury: Tendinosis in knee / thigh strain / cursed by witch doctorWhen injured: Ongoing problem (first cursed in Feburary)Due back: UnknownProspects: Doubtful for opener.There are fears that the world's best player will miss Portugal's crucial opening game against Germany on 16 June, and could even be ruled out of the entire tournament. The Real Madrid superstar was beset by niggling injuries towards the end of the Spanish season (see below), and last week the Portguese camp confirmed that he was suffering from tendinosis in his left knee as well as a thigh strain.
The latest scare came on the opening day of the tournament, when he cut short a training session with the rest of the Portugal squad and was contented himself with stretching excercises. He was later seen leaving the session with an ice pack strapped to his troublesome knee.
Ronaldo has not played since the Champions League final on 25 May and trained separately to the rest of the squad at their pre-tournament training base in New York. Although the thigh strain is ongoing, news of the knee problem represented a new concern. Tendinosis is caused by long-term wear and tear and can take months to recover from, according to the BBC.
But that may not be the worst of Ronaldo's problems. A Ghanaian witch doctor called Nana Kwaku Bonsam has taken credit for the Portuguese player's injuries and says he has beem "working on him" since February in order to rule him out of the match against Ghana on 26 June. Ronaldo's injuries "can never be cured by any medic" he says.
Danny Welbeck: Manchester United and EnglandInjury: Thigh problemWhen injured: World Cup trainingDue back: SoonProspects: Could be doubtful for ItalyThe forward, who was expected to be part of Roy Hodgson's first-choice XI for the opening game against Italy, could be struggling after reportedly picking up a thigh strain in training.
Welbeck missed over half the work out at England’s military training base in Urca, Rio, limping off soon after the session began holding the top of his right thigh that appeared to have tape on it, says the Daily Telegraph.
If he does fail to recover in time, his place is likely to be taken by Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling, who has impressed Hodgson in training. There was more positive news about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (see below), who was seen jogging at pace and even removed his knee brace for part of the session.
Marco Reus: Borussia Dortmund and GermanyInjury: Torn ankle ligamentWhen injured: World Cup warm up against ArmeniaDue back: End of JulyProspects: Out of the tournamentGermany lost one of their key attacking midfield options on Friday night, when Marco Reus tore an ankle ligament during their warm-up game against Armenia. The midfielder, rumoured to be an Arsenal transfer target, will be out for up to two months.
Although the playmaker, who can also operate as a forward, was seen as a key part of Joachim Low's plans, Germany have strength in depth in midfield and have replaced Reus with a defender rather than another midfielder. "We have a lot of quality in that position and a lot of options with Lukas Podolski, Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Mesut ozil, Julian Draxler and Toni Kroos," explained Low.
Franck Ribery: Bayern Munich and FranceInjury: BackWhen injured: Ongoing problemDue back: UnknownProspects: Out of the tournamentFrench talisman Franck Ribery finally lost his battle to be fit for the tournament in Brazil on Friday when he succumbed to a long-standing back problem. The injury restricted the winger to just 18 Bundesliga starts for Bayern Munich last season and he missed both France's warm-up games against Norway and Paraguay amid concerns that he would be forced out of the French squad. He was included in the final 23-man squad, but he broke down in training on Friday and a scan confirmed that he would not make it to Brazil.
"He is not capable of training for a few weeks, let alone playing a game," lamented French coach Didier Deschamps.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Arsenal and EnglandInjury: Knee ligament damageWhen injured: Friendly against EcuadorDue back: Mid-JuneProspects: FitThe Arsenal winger, who has been out of action since April, appeared to pick up yet another injury during England's warm-up against Ecuador on Wednesday, when an opposing player rolled onto his ankle, causing his leg to give way. Oxlade-Chamerlain clutched his knee and looked glum as he was helped off the pitch.
However, a scan showed that while the ligaments had been strained the damage was minimal and that the Arsenal man could expect to be back within days. Speaking after England's 0-0 draw with Honduras on Saturday night manager Roy Hodgson confirmed that Oxlade-Chamberlain was still part of his plans. "He will make the tournament without a shadow of a doubt," said Hodgson. Whether he will be fit to face Italy on 14 June remains to be seen.
Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea and BelgiumInjury: Ankle ligament damageWhen injured: Friendly against TunisiaDue back: Mid JuneProspects: Likely to miss first group gameBelgian striker Lukaku gave fans a scare when he twisted his ankle during the Red Devil's warm-up match against Tunisia on Saturday night. Initial reports suggested that he had suffered a "severe" sprain, but coach Marc Wilmots played down the injury.
The 21-year-old striker will sit out training for the next few days, which means he may not be available for Belgium's Group H opener against Algeria on 17 June, however he is expected to be fit for the games against South Korea and Russia.
Belgium have already lost the services of striker Christian Benteke, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in training in April, leaving Lukaku as their main goal threat.
Robin Van Persie: Man United and NetherlandsInjury: Groin strainWhen injured: Friendly against WalesDue back: SoonProspects: GoodThe Netherlands striker was taken off at half time in the warm-up fixture against Wales, after appearing to suffer a groin problem. The 32-year-old said he had come off as a precaution. "I wouldn't call it an injury," he explained. "It built up during the game so I decided it was sensible to come off."
Manager Louis Van Gaal said he thought his captain would be fit for the game against Spain on 13 June. "He has a little injury and I think it is better that you don't risk a bigger injury playing the second half," he said.
Radamel Falcao: Monaco and ColombiaInjury: Anterior cruciate ligamentWhen injured: JanuaryDue back: JuneProspects: Ruled outThe Colombian striker finally lost his race to be fit for the World Cup finals days before the tournament got underway. The 28-year-old striker was part of Colombia's initial 30-man squad for the finals in Brazil despite not having played since January. However, he was not on the final 23-man list handed into Fifa on 2 June. His absence is a hammer-blow for Colombia, who were considered one of the tournament's dark horses.
The striker tore his ACL playing for Monaco in a cup game against Chasselay in January. The initial prognosis was that he would miss the tournament, but the striker had other ideas. Falcao's injury was similar to the one that sidelined Theo Walcott and came nearly three weeks after the Arsenal man was hurt. But despite making what looked like a miraculous recovery, coach Jose Pekerman was forced to accept that he would not be able to play a "meaningful" role for Colombia.
Riccardo Montolivo: AC Milan and ItalyInjury: Broken legWhen injured: Word Cup warm-up vs IrelandDue back: AugustProspects: Out of the tournamentThe AC Milan midfielder suffered a fractured tibia in his left leg during a World Cup warm up game against Ireland at Craven Cottage on Friday. The injury came just 13 minutes into the match when he was tackled by Reading centre-back Alex Pearce. The challenge did not appear dangerous but as Montolivo was stretchered off he reportedly told team-mates: "It's broken". The creative midfielder will be missed by Italy, but they have ready made replacements in Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi.
Luis Suarez: Liverpool and UruguayInjury: KneeWhen injured: World Cup trainingDue back: Mid-JuneProspects: PossibleSuarez could be the biggest casualty of the summer if he is ruled out of the tournament, but he appears to be winning his race for fitness and was included in Uruguay's final squad for the tournament. He even texted some England players to warn them he would be fit. The striker twisted his knee in training on 21 May and an MRI scan revealed menicus cartilage damage. He has undergone keyhole surgery and now faces a race against time to be fit for Uruguay's opening games against Costa Rica and England. He is expected to be out for anything from three to six weeks.
Diego Costa: Atletico Madrid and SpainInjury: HamstringWhen injured: Champions League finalDue back: Late-MayProspects: HopefulThe Brazil-born Spanish forward limped out of the Champions League final after failing to overcome a hamstring problem. Costa broke down despite visiting 'miracle doctor' Marijana Kovacevic in Belgrade in an effort to be fit for the final. Worryingly, it is not an unusual problem for Costa. "It is feared that the painful spasms Costa has been suffering with which could curtail his blossoming career," says the Daily Telegraph. However, Costa insists he will be ready when the action begins in Brazil and expects to play a part in Spain's warm-up against El Salvador in Washington this week.
Kolo Toure: Liverpool and Ivory CoastInjury: MalariaWhen injured: On trip to Abidjan Due back: UnknownProspects: GoodThe Ivorian was struck down with the disease on a trip to his homeland before joining the rest of the squad in Dallas. The defender was first infected with the mosquito-borne disease while an Arsenal player in 2008. On that occasion he needed hospital treatment, but this time he has been able to join his team mates in the US.
Luis Montes: Club Leon and MexicoInjury: Broken legWhen injured: World Cup warm-up vs EcuadorDue back: Later this yearProspects: Out of the tournament.The midfielder scored in Mexico's 3-1 win over Ecuador in Texas on Saturday, but ended the night in hospital after a coming together with opponent Segundo Castillo. The injury looked gruesome at the time and was later confirmed that he had a broken tibia and fibula and the player will be out for several months. The 28-year-old midfielder was a key member of the Mexico side.
Neymar: Barcelona and BrazilInjury: FootWhen injured: Copa del Rey final, 16 AprilDue back: Mid-MayProspects: HopefulFor Brazil, losing the services of their biggest superstar, Neymar, would have been disastrous, but his participation in this summer's tournament appeared to be in doubt after he picked up an injury to his left foot in Barcelona's season-wrecking defeat in the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid.
However, the prognosis for the 22-year-old has improved since then, and the player came on as a substitute in Barcelona's final match of the season against Atletico Madrid on 18 May. He was out of touch, but he should be fine for Brazil.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid and PortugalInjury: Thigh/hamstringWhen injured: Mid-AprilDue back: Late MayProspects: Fine The world's best player was an unused substitute in the Champions League quarter finals because of a knee problem, but he subsequently missed the weekend fixture against Almeira and the Copa del Rey final with a muscle injury. He then limped off on the final day of the season with a hamstring problem, adding to concerns about long-term niggles.
However, Real have confirmed that the Ballon d'Or winner will be fit for the Champions League final, and as long as he survives that game he should be fine for the World Cup.
"Real have not indicted how long the ex-Manchester United player could be out for, although Spanish media reports claim he will only be sidelined for a couple of weeks," reports the BBC.
Sami Khedira: Real Madrid and GermanyInjury: Anterior cruciate ligamentWhen injured: NovemberDue back: MayProspects: Fine Another victim of the dreaded ACL tear, Germany star Khedira broke down in November and underwent surgery. He returned to the Real Madrid side at the end of the season after six months out and seems certain to make it to Brazil.
Jack Wilshere: Arsenal and England Injury: Broken foot When injured: Early March Due back: Early May Prospects: GoodWilshere has had a torrid time with injuries in his short career, and his hoodoo struck again when he was on England duty in a friendly against Denmark. After initially being given the all clear it was later discovered that he had a broken bone in his foot, and was ruled out for the foreseeable future. But the midfielder resumed training this week and manager Arsene Wenger hopes he will play before the end of the season. Arsenal need him and so do England. He even went as far as to announce that the player would be available for England when Roy Hodgson announces his squad on 13 May. However, Wilshere's record and the Gunners' apparent inability to properly rehabilitate their injured players mean that nothing should be taken for granted.