On the eve of the U.S. men’s last warm-up game before the start of the World Cup, sobering injury news for two huge names–Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand–and a reminder that what’s most important for the Nats against Australia tomorrow is to stay healthy.
The U.S. already has injury concerns, with Oguchi Onyewu’s ability to go a full 90 minutes still very much in question. And Jozy Altidore picked up a “mild” ankle sprain in training Wednesday. He’s been held out of practice since, is listed as day-to-day and is doubtful to play against the Socceroos.
Those concerns are minor compared to the worries of England and Ivory Coast, who appear to have lost talismanic players just days before the start of the tournament. England Captain Rio Ferdinand hobbled out of practice after a clash with Emile Heskey (who else could it be?) and was later seen leaving the hospital on crutches. Sources are saying Ferdinand is out of the tournament with a knee injury, though coach Fabio Capello has yet to confirm the dire diagnosis.
(UPDATED: Ferdinand is out. Capello announced, “It’s obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio.” Tottenham defender Michael Dawson is on his way to South Africa as the allowed injury replacement and Steven Gerrard takes the captain’s arm band.)
That leaves the Three Lions with the choice of Ledley King or Matthew Upson to line up next to John Terry in central defense. That’s decent cover, for sure, but King’s legendary brittleness almost assures England won’t start the same defensive pair in all of their group games.
As for Drogba, there is no replacement for him. He’s truly a “destination” player, one whom even a casual observer tunes in to watch, along the lines of a Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, and the World Cup will suffer if he’s unable to go. And all involved with Ivory Coast will be livid at the manner in which the injury–reportedly a fractured elbow–was sustained, a reckless karate kick from Japan defender Tulio Tanaka.
That’s just dirty and un-called for. A “fucking disgrace,” if you will. Nobody in the Ivory Coast camp has officially ruled out the striker and reports are currently all over the place, with Drogba claiming he was out, while coach Sven-Goran Eriksson says he still might play. Ivory Coast’s first game is in ten days against Portugal.
So, to repeat, U.S. of A. lads: watch out for flying Aussies. The game is on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. (EST).