No England World Cup campaign can start without a national panic over injured players. Talismanic figures such as Kevin Keegan, Bryan Robson, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney have all started finals partially fit, and England fans must hope the recent concern over Rooney’s ankle injury is the final scare.
Sadly, this is unlikely to be the case, largely because fretting over injured players is an English disease – other nations are more philosophical about crocked players. Although it is true that no other team is as reliant on one player as England are on Rooney – and their World Cup odds would lengthen significantly if he was ruled out – supporters should perhaps concentrate on who is fit.
Furthermore, England are not too badly off. David Beckham was unlikely to make the squad, Ashley Cole is fit enough to return for Chelsea already and Aaron Lennon has not yet run out of time in his fitness battle. Most importantly Rooney has games to play to get back to full sharpness.
A glance at Arsenal’s injured overseas stars reveals the problems faced by other nations. Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas have both been ruled out for the season, while Robin van Persie is rusty after enduring nearly six months on the sidelines.
Fernando Torres has recently gone under the knife and will probably arrive in South Africa not having played a competitive match since the surgery. However, Spain are still the favourites on most betting sites despite the potential for high-profile absentees.
Michael Essien is another who will not play again this season and his absence would all but end Ghana’s hopes of qualifying for the second round.
Clint Dempsey is a key figure for United States and is currently suffering the familiar scenario of picking up niggling injuries after returning from a long layoff. The cruciate ligament damage he suffered in January might yet ruin his World Cup dream.
Germany’s first choice goalkeeper Rene Adler has a broken rib, while Sami Khedira and Marcell Jansen are also struggling with injuries. Opening round opponents Australia have even more players sidelined, including Harry Kewell and Mark Bresciano.
England fans should realise things could be worse and might be better off worrying about the form of leading players like John Terry and Steven Gerrard. (120)