2014 World Cup

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JULY 13 | RIO DE JANEIRO
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The injury list: Stars set to miss the World Cup

By Jeff Borzello | CBSSports.com

French star Franck Ribery is one of the best wingers in the world. (Getty Images)
French star Franck Ribery is one of the best wingers in the world. (Getty Images)

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Some of the best soccer players in the world are always going to be left out of the World Cup, given that only 32 countries are involved and each continent/federation is given a certain number of spots in the competition.

So while the World Cup is a gathering of the best talents on the planet, players are always going to miss out.

But the 2014 World Cup in Brazil seems to be missing more stars than previous years.

It started with guys like Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Wales' Gareth Bale, whose countries didn't make the field. But then it continued when the final 23-man squads were announced. France cut Samri Nasri, Argentina didn't bring Carlos Tevez, Brazil left off Philippe Coutinho and Spain couldn't find room for Jesus Navas. Of course, Landon Donovan of the United States was also left home.

There is enough talent in that group to field one of the best attacking forces in the world, and it's unfortunate none will be playing in Brazil. What's worse, though, is that the aforementioned list of players is only the tip of the iceberg.

We haven't even gotten to the injuries yet. Well, now we have -- so let's take a look at the long list of players set to miss -- or in danger of missing -- the World Cup.

Stars

Franck Ribery, France: One of the best wingers in the world, Ribery is out with a back injury. He has made 81 national team appearances for France, and scored 14 goals for Bayern Munich in all competitions this past season. Without Ribery, manager Didier Deschamps called up Montpeler midfielder Remy Cabella and will need to rely more on the creativity of young attacker Antoine Griezmann. France will also miss midfielder Clement Grenier and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

Radamel Falcao, Colombia: The star striker was included in the 30-man preliminary squad, but the torn ACL he suffered in January will keep him home for the World Cup. He's one of the most prolific attackers in the world, scoring 70 goals in two years for Atletico Madrid before moving to Monaco and knocking 11 more into the back of the net. There was hope that Falcao could be fit in time for the World Cup, but that won't be the case.

Marco Reus, Germany: This one happened over the weekend, with Reus suffering a partially torn ligament in his left ankle. Reus was primed for a breakout competition, after scoring 16 goals and 13 assists during the Bundesliga campaign for Borussia Dortmund. Germany has plenty of depth in the attacking band, but Reus' versatility and playmaking ability would have been a huge asset. Veterans Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos and young star Mario Gotze will have to pick up the slack. With that said, Germany will also miss Ilkay Gundogan (back) and Holger Badstuber (knee), with both players having long injury recoveries.

Christian Benteke, Belgium: While Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku is the one becoming the household name due to his highlight-reel performances, it was Benteke who took on most of the striking responsibilities during the qualifying stages. However, a serious Achilles injury suffered in April will force him to miss the World Cup. Benteke has scored 34 goals in two seasons with Aston Villa, and is developing into one of the best young strikers in Europe. Lukaku is the clear-cut target man now.

Riccardo Montolivo, Italy: The AC Milan midfielder broke his left tibia during last weekend's friendly with Ireland and will miss the trip to Brazil. Montolivo started seven matches for Italy during the qualifying stages, and also notched three goals and four assists for AC Milan during the Serie A campaign. Montolivo formed a nice partnership with veteran Andrea Pirlo in the center of the park, although Italy does have a nice collection of center midfielders. United States-born Giuseppe Rossi was not included in the 23-man roster.

Kevin Strootman, Netherlands: The Dutch are known for their internationally-recognized attackers like Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben, but it was Strootman who led them in minutes during the qualifying stage. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in March and will be recovering from surgery during the World Cup. The 24-year old Roma midfielder developed into one of the best young players in Serie A, going for five goals and six assists in 24 appearances. He's not the only key Netherlands performer missing out, though, with Rafael van der Vaart (calf), Gregory van der Wiel (knee), and Jetro Williams (knee) also injured.

Theo Walcott, England: Walcott is just one of a handful of English players missing out due to injury. The speedy winger was enjoying a terrific start to the season, before suffering a knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of Arsenal's season as well as the World Cup. Tottenham's Kyle Walker also had questions about his fitness, while club teammate Andros Townsend and Southampton midfielder Jay Rodriguez were also hurt. The biggest current question for England is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose timetable to recover from his knee injury is expected to be 2-3 weeks.

Thiago Alcantara (right) was a breakout star on Spain's U-21 side last summer. (Getty Images)
Thiago Alcantara (right) was a breakout star on Spain's U-21 side last summer. (Getty Images)

Key Losses

Thiago Alcantara, Spain: While he might not have seen many minutes for Spain (or even made the 23-man roster), Thiago was a star for the U-21 side last summer in Israel and showed flashes of his ability during his time with Bayern Munich this past season. However, his knee injury has forced him out. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes underwent knee surgery in March and is out for seven months.

Niko Kranjcar, Croatia: The midfielder suffered a rupture in his hamstring during Queens Park Rangers' Championship playoff win over Derby last month, and won't recover in time. He was the third player ruled out for Croatia, joining defender Ivan Strinic and midfielder Ivo Ilicevic.

Roman Shirokov, Russia: After missing all three of Russia's pre-World Cup friendlies, it was announced that the team captain would stay home due to a back injury. Shirokov started all 10 matches in qualifying, scoring three goals and notching two assists.

Alvaro Saborio, Costa Rica: The Real Salt Lake striker will miss three-to-four months after breaking a bone in his left foot late last month. He led Costa Rica in qualifying with eight goals. Everton fullback Bryan Oviedo suffered a double leg-break in January, and he too will miss out.

Luis Montes, Mexico: This was one of the worst injuries of the pre-World Cup stretch, as the Mexican midfielder suffered a horrible broken leg during a collision with Ecuador's Segundo Castillo, who will miss the World Cup with a torn ACL. Montes had enjoyed an excellent campaign with LIGA MX's Club Leon.

Elderson Echiejile, Nigeria: After making the move to Monaco this past season, there were high hopes for Echiejile in Brazil. The 26-year old defender was injured in last week's friendly against Greece, though, and needs three weeks to recover. As a result, he's been removed from the squad.

Jerry Akaminko, Ghana: Another player injured in a send-off match, Akaminko hurt his ankle against the Netherlands and is out for three months. The 26-year old center back started three matches in qualifying and was expected to be a factor in Brazil.

Robbie Kruse, Australia: The 2013 Australian Player of the Year, Kruse tore ligaments in his left knee in January. The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder saw action in all 13 of the Socceroos' qualifying matches, either as a starter or an impact sub. Australia will have to look elsewhere for playmaking.

Uruguay needs Luis Suarez to be in top form in order to advance deep in the World Cup. (Getty Images)
Uruguay needs Luis Suarez to be in top form in order to advance deep in the World Cup. (Getty Images)

Question Marks

Luis Suarez, Uruguay: Possibly the best striker in Europe during the 2013-14 campaign, Suarez underwent knee surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. His recovery is on track, but Uruguay's chances of advancing deep in Brazil take a huge hit if he does not show the form he did with Liverpool this season.

Diego Costa, Spain: Costa has been bothered by a hamstring injury for several weeks, but he was still included on Spain's 23-man squad last week. He reportedly passed a physical for Chelsea, which could lead to optimism for La Roja. With Fernando Torres and David Villa as the other striking options for Spain, Costa needs to be healthy.

Arturo Vidal, Chile: Chile could be a sleeper in Brazil, given their high-pressure system and ability to wear teams down. However, it all comes down to Vidal. He is arguably the most complete midfielder in the world, but underwent knee surgery in early May. He is expected to be fit for the World Cup, and Chile will need him healthy to control the middle of the field.

Manuel Neuer, Germany: One of the best goalkeepers in the world, Neuer has been bothered by a shoulder injury and has been held out of recent friendlies. Germany seems confident he will be fit in time for their opening match against Portugal, and the experience Neuer provides could be helpful with Cristiano Ronaldo bearing down.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: Speaking of Ronaldo, the global star has been bothered by a thigh injury and left knee tendonitis. The Portuguese FA announced on Saturday that he was back in training, and that's huge for his country. He's capable of carrying Portugal deep into the World Cup, and there is a huge dropoff if he's not in top form. Pepe and Raul Meireles are also dealing with fitness issues. Exciting attacker Bruma (knee) and fullback Silvio (broken leg) are definitely out.

Makoto Hasebe, Japan: Hasebe was included on the team's 23-man squad despite being out since January with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He has undergone two surgeries, and his timetable is unclear. However, the Japan captain started all 13 matches in qualifying and would provide a major boost.

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