Have you ever wondered why certain players miss out on representing their countries at international tournaments, simply due to injury? The annoying/funny/frustrating/whatever you want to call it part of it is that these injuries occur just before the tournament starts. You already expect the player to be on hand to showcase his talent(s) and show the world just how good he is. International tournaments are designed to create legends within weeks, and the list is endless; Maradona, Pele, Platini, Gerd Muller, Bobby Moore, Cryuff, Beckenbauer, Zidane, Ronaldo (the Brazilian of course), Cannavaro, Van Basten, Roger Milla, Lineker, Stoichkov, Yekini, Amunike, Amokachi…You could add so many more to the list. However, for every one that was created, there are others that could have been, but for the grave misfortune of being injured.
When Salah walked off the pitch in Kiev on Saturday, I reckoned that he wasn’t the only one crying in that moment. Many Egyptians that are keen to see him at the World Cup would have been thinking of the worst scenario. Too many head-in-hand moments at the stadium, and I can only imagine how many more around the world. Fortunately though, he has a chance of making it to Russia…but only just. In the same game, Carvajal walked off after twisting his ankle. Spanish fans will be praying seriously for him. In the Nigerian camp however, such luck wasn’t present as Moses Simon has been ruled out of the tournament while Sergio Romero suffered the same fate in the Argentina camp. Feel bad for both, but then this happens every tournament year; injury strikes.
Players have always suffered this fate for years. Some never get to play in international tournaments as a result. Some were never the same after the injuries. Some managed to play but they weren’t fit enough to make the desired impact. In a World Cup year, it’s upsetting when a good player misses out through injury.
I remember Walcott and Jay Rodriguez in 2014. Both were shoo-ins for the England at the 2014 World Cup. In a matter of weeks, they caught season-ending injuries that kept them out of their club-sides for more than a year. While they are both still playing, they are no longer the players they once were. It’s likely none of them will have another chance. This year, the biggest loss for England will be Oxlade Chamberlain, who was a sure starter if he was fit. But he isn’t, so that sucks for them. France have also lost Payet and Koscielny to injury as well. Payet, scorer of THAT goal at Euro 2016, was Marseille’s star in the Europa League while the French defense has rarely looked complete without Koscielny in it. But they won’t be there this year, and that’s a shame.
To be fair, it’s a sensitive period between when the club football season ends and when the international tournament starts. Friendly/Warm-up games are in between and the risk of getting injured is always present. Imagine if Nigeria played against Atletico with the main squad and Victor Moses limped off with a torn hamstring? The entire NFF executive would need protection.
However, injuries to players (especially key national team players) have also paved the way for new stars to be brought out in these tournaments. Loftus-Cheek has earned his spot on England’s plane to Russia because of Chamberlain’s injury, and it’s hoped that he will prove his worth in Russia. Kimpembe and Thauvin (remember him at Newcastle?) have earned spots on France’s plane as well with Koscielny and Payet out, so it’s not so bad, from a fan point of view. Wildcards are needed for the excitement of this tournament (I will write on that later). For now, let’s just be hopeful of no more injury surprises as the World Cup greets us in a few days’ time.