Having survived ten months of gruelling club football, it must represent the ultimate frustration for a footballer to be ruled out of a World Cup because of an injury sustained in post-season.
Lassana Diarra is the latest to experience this, after it was revealed that persistent stomach pains – relating to a genetic blood disorder and triggered by France’s high-altitude training – have robbed him of his chance of making a Finals debut.
It’s undoubtedly a blow to France’s hopes of making a successive appearance in the final. The Real Madrid midfielder is integral in his deep-lying role, with his dogged groundwork allowing the likes of Thierry Henry, Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff more time and space in midfield to let their creative instincts impact on the game. The physically-imposing but less gifted Alou Diarra is likely to benefit, replacing his namesake alongside Jeremy Toulalan in front of the back four.
Boss Raymond Domenech is already sweating on the fitness of his defensive rock William Gallas, who did his calf injury no favours by tipping his dune buggy at the weekend, escaping without serious injury. It’s difficult to see Fabio Capello allowing such activities to take place in the England squad, and Domenech might wish to reconsider what his side, 20/1 to win the tournament, do to entertain themselves in their spare time from now on.
But Capello isn’t free from new injury concerns, though Darren Bent’s hamstring problem will surely upset the individual more than it does his manager, given that he is likely to be the striker left behind when the England boss trims his squad. So Bent will be crestfallen should his niggle prevent him from making a final impression in any of England’s two pre-tournament friendlies, with the Sunderland forward almost certain to miss tonight’s game against Mexico.
And to Argentina, where huge sighs of relief could be heard from as far away as Fifa HQ when Diego Maradona’s medical staff played down the sight of Lionel Messi limping from a practice session, having suffered a blow to his right knee after a clash with the ever-feisty Javier Mascherano. According to the club doctor it was merely a “scratch”, but the scare hinted at just how irreparable a blow to Argentina’s chances a loss to their diminutive genius would be – they’re currently 8/1 fourth favourites to win it.