Essien Out and Other Injuries

Ghana captain Michael Essien has been ruled out of the World Cup as he has not recovered from a knee injury picked up in the African Cup of Nations in January. The absence of the Chelsea midfielder, Ghana’s most accomplished player, is a huge setback to the Black Stars and they must now be considered long-shots to get out of Group D, which includes Germany, Serbia and Australia.

essien

In other injury news, Spain’s Fernando Torres returned to full training with the Euro 2008 champions after six weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury, a certain boost to the co-favorites (with Brazil) and likely also to those clubs hoping to pry the striker away from Anfield later this summer. Torres recently rubbished his agent’s statements alluding to the star staying with Liverpool after a distasterous campaign, raising red flags all over Merseyside, and also at my house.

Closer to home (home, in this case being Group C), England gaffer Fabio Capello is not yet ready to rule out Gareth Barry, who continues to rehab an ankle injury suffered earlier this month. Barry, Capello’s preferred defensive midfielder, had scans on the ankle this week that were inconclusive. Considering the middling performances of James Milner and Michael Carrick against Mexico, it’s clear Capello will consider Barry until the last possible moment.

U.S. players with questionable health include the (many times) aforementioned Oguchi Onyewu. Some pundits claimed he looked about 60-70% against the Czechs, but I’d say that assessment is rather optimistic. Centreback Jay DeMerit, with his new cornea, appears recovered from a strained abdominal muscle, as does captain Carlos Bocanegra, who underwent a recent hernia operation. Though U.S. fans will breathe easier regarding those diagnoses if both take the field Saturday for the U.S. team’s final stateside friendly against Turkey in Philly.

Countdown Begins

Five weeks until World Cup 2010 kicks off with Mexico against host South Africa in Johannesburg and the 32 nations are in the process of naming provisional rosters for their respective pre-tournament training camps.

The U.S. is set to announce its initial 30-man roster on Tuesday, with camp opening in Princeton, N.J. on Monday May 17th. There remains some intrigue regarding which players will be named. The primary question is the health of striker Charlie Davies, who is participating in full training for his French club Sochaux, but will not have seen game action since his horrific car accident in October. Davies’ availability, or lack thereof, stands to alter Coach Bob Bradley’s selections considerably.

Most expect either Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey to fill a striker slot if Davies is unable to go, which would open up another place for a midfielder, an area where the U.S. is considered deep. Stuart Holden, recovered from a broken tibia sustained in a friendly with Netherlands, is a favorite to replace those two in starting midfield, while others, such as Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and DaMarcus Beasley provide cover.

The back line seems set, though centreback Oguchi Onyewu is also just recently recovered from injury, so the other main question will be who joins shoe-in Jozy Altidore on the front line. Brian Ching, also in a fitness race (wow, this is getting redundant), is a Bradley favorite and the team’s best hold-up striker, so he’s likely in. After that, the pool is in such disarray that calls might go out for the likes of Edson Buddle (currently scoring at will for the LA Galaxy) and Herculez Gomez, who lit up the Mexican League with 10 goals for Puebla in the recently-completed Clausura. Neither figured in qualifying nor have they been involved in a National Team set-up in eons (three years for Gomez; seven! for Buddle).

The Nats’ first opponent, England, doesn’t have nearly as many injury worries, though Coach Fabio Capello’s preferred defensive midfielder, Gareth Barry, injured ankle ligaments this week and is now doubtful. And there’s still time for a Three Lions player to break a metatarsal bone, as is their custom every four years (Beckham in ’02; Rooney in ’06).

The world’s greatest sporting spectacle is just around the corner. Better start stretching.

Super-Ouch!

Not sure which league this is in — France, I presume — but at least the right guy got a booking and presumably career-ending injury:

La faute malheureuse commise par Axel Witsel (Standard) sur Wasilewski (Anderlecht) lors du match Anderlecht-Standard du 30/08/2009 de Jupiler Pro League (score final 1-1)


(Thanks DonkeyBomber for the link!)

UPDATE: Oops, just re-watched it. And I think I misinterpreted the card as well as the action. I now can see why the player driving down the field was the bad guy, not the tackler who got (literally) crushed. Yikes.