It is starting to look like World Cup 2010 may be honouring the team that best sums up the old adage of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ rather than who has the best team. Over the years many of the world’s best players have been unable to play in the World Cup because of injury or misfortune, sometimes to England’s advantage, such as Jimmy Greaves giving up his place to Geoff Hurst in 1966 or their disadvantage when Gordon Banks missed the 1970 quarter final against West Germany due to food poising, which they eventually lost 3:2. This year, more than ever before, it seems that on a daily basis, more and more world-class players may miss all or part of the tournament.
For England, the misfortune started as long ago the Carling Cup final when Michael Owen’s season finished with a hamstring problem. Then it was the turn of David Beckham and his Achilles, followed by a scare that Wayne Rooney might not be fit with his toes and finally, for the time being, Rio Ferdinand and his knee. All present or former Manchester United players, I might add! Suddenly those 7:1 odds on England lifting the trophy seem to be a tad too high.
The latest injury scare is another former Manchester United player, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan who appeared to damage his left foot during their first training session but who hopes to be fit for their opening game against France in Cape Town on Friday. Meanwhile, England Goalkeeper David James was unable to train due to a knee problem.
Former and present Chelsea players are also doubtful starting with Didier Drogba who fractured his forearm and Arjen Robben (hamstring). Adding to the Chelsea tally is the injured Michael Essien and the unfortunate Michael Ballack who injured his ankle in the FA Cup Final plus John Obi Mikel who says he has not recovered from knee surgery!
And what of the rest of the teams bidding for glory on July 11! Few if any have a full squad to rely upon to help them reach the finals. Italy’s Andrea Pirlo is still in Milan with a calf injury, Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar is recovering from a back injury, American striker Jozy Altidore has a sprained right ankle, Sulley Muntari is also doubtful while Wilson Palacios, Valon Behrami, John Heitinga. and Martin Skrtel have all picked up knocks ahead of the World Cup finals and the list goes on and on as more players risk injury in pre-tournament warm up games.
Apart from the players, there is also a case of ‘Wembley-itis’ at the new Ruimsig Stadium, where chunks of turf were being torn up with every slide or tackle in the friendliest! Spain remain favourites with Brazil chomping at their heals while possibly England’s most loathed foes, outsiders Argentina and Germany are also reckoned to have a decent chance of winning the cup. As a guide only, those interested in placing a bet or a ‘creative investment’ as it’s proclaimed in some local Spanish establishments, it’s Spain at 4/1, Brazil 9/2, Argentina 13/2, England 7/1, Holland 10/1, Germany and Italy at 14/1, France 20/1 and Portugal at 28/1. All subject to and guaranteed to change before the kick-off on June 11; mark my words on that! As for England, it’s fingers crossed, with the side bet on our adopted nation, Spain, who may just do us all proud.