Which stars will miss Soccer World Cup?
Mohamed Salah (Getty)
Johannesburg - Monday (June 4) is the deadline for all 32 countries that will take part in this year’s Soccer World Cup to submit the details of their final 23-man squads.
While some stars are racing against time to prove their fitness for the campaign, others’ dreams of going to Russia ended a long time ago.
As it is the norm, every World Cup has its casualties and this year’s edition is no different as an array of stars will be missing in action - for an assortment of reasons.
From injuries and drug bans to loss of form and pure omissions, these stars will not be able to showcase their talent on the global stage.
It is not only Egyptian and African supporters who are praying and hoping for a speedy recovery for one of their own, Mohamed Salah, who dislocated his shoulder while playing for Liverpool in the final of the UEFA Champions League last weekend.
Salah is one of a few players who are racing against time to be ready for the event.
Germans are holding thumbs that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and defender Jerome Boateng make the cut for their team.
Bayern Munich captain Neuer has been out of action since September with a broken foot, while his
team-mate Boateng suffered a hamstring injury in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid in April.
Neuer has returned to full training in recent weeks, and is expected to feature in their friendly against Austria, but Boateng is still working individually during the national team’s pre-tournament training camp.
Germany’s coach Joachim Loew is not only stressing about the fitness of the duo, he has been missing the talents of injured Serge Gnabry and Lars Stindl.
Some players have not been as lucky because their dreams were shattered a while ago.
And a World Cup without these stars will not be the same, but the show will go on.
It is a big blow as it is every player’s dream to play on the biggest stage of them all.
Although others had already accepted their fate after their countries failed to qualify for the event, it is rather heartbreaking for players such as Dani Alves and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who were knocked out by injuries.
But a more bizarre one is that of Peru captain Paolo Guerrero, who tested positive for a banned substance last year. Guerrero was banned by FIFA from all competitions for one year, meaning he would not be able to participate in the World Cup.
Then FIFA decided to reduce the ban to six months, meaning he would be illegible. But earlier this month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport extended his ban to 14 months, meaning he’ll miss it.
For others, it was a case of having been deemed surplus to requirements.
But for Karim Benzema, in particular, it is a case of not being in the good books with French coach Didier Deschamps.
The Real Madrid striker, who has not featured for his country since October 2015 following controversial blackmail claims in a sex scandal that also involved his former Les Bleus team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, believes he will not be picked again as long as Deschamps is at the helm.
He is not the only star missing from the French team.
Les Bleus will have to do without the services of Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet, who picked up a hamstring injury in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid. Defender Laurent Koscielny suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
Although the two miss out because of injuries, Deschamps also had to go without Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial.
The hosts, Russia, have problems of their own, with striker Aleksandr Kokorin also ruled out of the event in front of his home supporters.
Defenders Viktor Vasin and Giorgi Jikia have sustained injuries that have scuppered their World Cup dreams.
It is still touch and go for Spain’s right fullback Dani Carvajal, who limped off during the UEFA Champions League final last weekend with a suspected hamstring injury.
The defender will be heartbroken as he also missed the Euro 2016 finals after picking up an injury in the final of the 2016 edition of the Champions League.
Argentina will be without their number one goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was withdrawn from the team because of a knee injury.