The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a tournament like no other in that it starts just a week after the domestic season was put on pause.
Unsurprisingly, that has meant a host of injury issues, given that a three-week issue can rule a player out of the World Cup entirely, where previously they would have had several weeks to recover prior to the tournament’s kickoff.
There are some big names missing, but who are they? And which players are still struggling to prove their fitness?
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10 NOTABLE PLAYERS RULED OUT
Karim Benzema (France)
Benzema suffered an injury to his left thigh during training on Saturday in Doha. The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner felt a strong pain in his thigh during a sprint toward the end of the training session and, after undergoing an MRI, it was confirmed that he had suffered a muscle tear that would need three weeks of recovery time.
Benzema addressed his withdrawal in an Instagram post.
“I’ve never given up in my life but tonight I have to think of the team, as I have always done,” he said. “So reason tells me to give my place to someone who can help our squad have a great World Cup. Thanks for all your messages of support.”
Also out for France are defender Presnel Kimpembe, goalkeeper Mike Maignan, midfielder Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, and, just a few days ago, forward Christopher Nkunku suffered a sprain of his left knee.
Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Mane, 30, picked up an injury in Bayern Munich’s 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on Nov. 8. He was substituted on 20 minutes with the team describing it the day after the match as an injury to the head of the fibula bone in his lower right leg.
Despite the injury, Mane was included in the Senegal squad for the World Cup and was expected to miss at least their first game of the tournament against the Netherlands on Nov. 20. However, the team revealed in a news conference on Thursday that further scans on the two-time African player of the year showed he would require surgery for the injury and would not be able to play in Qatar.
Timo Werner (Germany)
Werner was ruled out due to an ankle injury, his club RB Leipzig said on Nov. 3. The 26-year-old, who has 24 goals in 55 appearances for the national team, was taken off in the first half of Leipzig’s 4-0 Champions League group-stage win against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday after a knock on the foot in the 13th minute.
“This piece of news is extremely bitter,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said. “I feel very bad for Timo personally because he will miss the World Cup which he desperately wanted to play in.”
Meanwhile, Marco Reus’s career has been scarred by injuries more than most. The Borussia Dortmund forward watched his Germany teammates win the 2014 World Cup from home, missed Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, and now the 33-year-old has to sit out the 2022 World Cup as well due to an ankle injury.
Florian Wirtz, 18, is also missing. He is regarded as one of the best young prospects in Europe but was ruled out for at least six months after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the first-half of Leverkusen’s 1-0 defeat to rivals Cologne in March.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands)
Wijnaldum’s participation at the World Cup was ended after he fractured the tibia in his right leg in August. The midfielder was training with Serie A club AS Roma and despite not being included in Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands squad for the Nations League matches in June, he was tipped to make the World Cup squad.
“Sometimes football can be s—,” Roma coach Jose Mourinho said. “In only two weeks, Gini became one of us because of his human qualities (his football qualities we already knew). Sadly, In a very unfortunate accident he had a bad injury that will keep him away from playing for a long time.”
Diogo Jota (Portugal)
Jota was ruled out due to a calf injury suffered on Oct. 18. , on Tuesday. The 25-year-old was taken off on a stretcher deep into stoppage time during Liverpool’s 1-0 Premier League win against champions Manchester City.
“Really not good news, yes he will miss the World Cup,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “Pretty serious injury in the calf muscle and now the process starts. That’s it pretty much. All the rest will now follow in the next few days. Very sad news for the boy, for us as well and for Portugal… I don’t want to put a time on it [his return]. It will be a long time.”
Rob Dawson believes Gareth Southgate’s call-up of Callum Wilson is a similar surprise to James Maddison’s inclusion.
Reece James (England)
Chelsea defender James was not included in England’s 26-man squad for the World Cup after sustaining a knee injury against AC Milan last month. The 22-year-old was in a race against time to be fit and, in a statement on social media, James said he was “devastated” and added that he “truly believed” he could help the team in Qatar.
James flew to Dubai to undergo a specialist recovery programme and had begun running outdoors at Chelsea’s Cobham base but following regular dialogue between the club doctors and England’s medical team, the right-back has been deemed too much of a fitness risk to take to Qatar.
Also missing for England is Chelsea left-back Ben Chilwell, who pulled up in stoppage time of Chelsea’s 2-1 Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb, with scans showing he had “significant” damage to his hamstring.
Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona (Mexico)
Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino had been holding out hope that Tecatito may have been able to return to fitness in time for the tournament in Qatar and included him in El Tri‘s provisional 31-man roster two weeks ago. But
The Sevilla player fractured his fibula and suffered ligament damage in his left ankle during a training session in August. Shortly after suffering the injury, the LaLiga club announced that his recovery would be four to five months, making it unlikely that he would be ready in time.
Martino explained what had changed on Nov. 5: “The decision was made because we had a triple communication with Jesus, where we spoke with the doctor, the physical trainer and myself. He [Corona] directly told me that he was not in a position to fight for a [World Cup] spot.”
Arthur Melo (Brazil)
Juventus midfielder Arthur Melo, who is on loan at Liverpool, has been out of action after suffering a thigh injury in October. Arthur underwent surgery in London and is set to be out until the new year, despite only making one senior appearance for the Reds.
Brazil defender Diego Carlos is also missing after he ruptured his achilles tendon in Aston Villa’s victory over Everton in August.
Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina)
Lo Celso suffered a hamstring injury for which the midfielder requires surgery during Villarreal’s LaLiga loss against Athletic Bilbao on Oct. 30. The 26-year-old was replaced and scans confirmed that the midfielder suffered a hamstring tear.
Spanish media reported that Lo Celso, who is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, had exhausted all possible options to be on the flight to Qatar, including consultations with specialists from different parts of the world for a less invasive treatment.
Argentina are also missing forwards Nicolas Gonzalez and Joaquin Correa. Fiorentina’s Gonzalez sustained a muscular injury in Thursday’s training session, the Argentina FA announced, while Inter Milan’s Joaquin Correa was removed due to an undisclosed injury.
Amine Harit (Morocco)
One of Morocco’s most talented players, Harit was injured in his club’s final game before the World Cup. Marseille’s 3-2 Ligue 1 win over Monaco at the weekend saw the midfielder suffer a cruciate ligament sprain after a collision with France’s Axel Disasi.
Manager Igor Tudor said: “From what we know, it’s a very big injury. He got injured just before the World Cup, we talked about it all week, I’m very sad.”
“As you can imagine, beyond the physical pain, it’s hard to see the World Cup dream fly away a few hours before living it,” Harit said.
Alphonso Davies loved returning to Bayern Munich training as a World Cup qualifier with Canada.
10 NOTABLE PLAYERS TO WATCH WITH ONGOING INJURY ISSUES
Alphonso Davies (Canada)
Paulo Dybala (Argentina)
Son Heung-min (South Korea)
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Raul Jimenez (Mexico)
Kalvin Phillips (England)
Raphael Varane (France)
Sardar Azmoun (Iran)
Ronald Araujo (Uruguay)
Joe Allen (Wales)