Jamie Carragher has labelled the timing of this year’s World Cup as “an absolute disgrace”, with a mounting list of stars set to miss Qatar due to injuries.
Across the board, several stars in Europe and elsewhere have either been ruled out or face a race against time to be fit for football’s showpiece event.
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England are set to be without Reece James (knee) and Kyle Walker (groin), with Ben Chilwell now joining the growing contingent of walking wounded having hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the final minutes of Chelsea’s Champions League clash against Dinamo Zagreb.
South Korea skipper Heung-Min Son also could be absent from Qatar having suffered a nasty eye injury playing for Tottenham against Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Socceroos also aren’t without their own injury issues, with Martin Boyle anxiously awaiting the results of scans on a knee injury to determine his availability for the tournament.
With a handful of fixtures remaining between now and the World Cup officially kicking off, there’s every risk that more players could miss out.
And Carragher believes this could have all been avoided had the World Cup gone to a more suitable host.
“I think it’s an absolute disgrace the World Cup is in the position that it’s in for lots of reasons,” Carragher told CBS Sports.
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“It was corrupt that Qatar were given the World Cup, we knew that at the time.
“They campaigned on having it in the summer, it was impossible to have a World Cup in the summer with the temperature. It gets moved to where it is now in the middle of the season.
“Players from all around Europe and the world could get injured in the next couple of weeks. (Raphael) Varane was crying coming off the pitch at Stamford Bridge, that’s how close we are to a World Cup.
“A 10-day or two-week injury is going to keep players out of a World Cup, which should not be happening. And it all starts with FIFA giving them the World Cup in the first place and then moving it.
“The stuff that goes on in their country is a completely different issue, but I think it’s absolutely disgusting.”
France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry agreed, noting that had any of these players sustained their injuries at the end of the season in a normal World Cup window, things would have been OK.
But with such little time between leagues around the world briefly pausing and players linking up with their international squads, any injuries now will spell disaster for a player’s hopes of representing their nation.
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“Normally, a two-week injury should allow you at the end of the season, if you miss the last two weeks of the season, you have 20 days to prepare,” Henry said.
“This time, on the last game of the season (before the break) … then suddenly the World Cup starts.
“It doesn’t give you any chance for you to recover if you get injured.”
Such is the fear of missing the tournament, players are beginning to ease up in their club training sessions in a preventive measure.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said last Friday that he is “pretty sure they (players) have one eye on the World Cup”, although Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believed players must put their club first while the domestic season is still chugging along.
“Every day I feel responsibility to protect them, to guide them, to get the best out of them,” Arteta said.
“But we are playing for Arsenal at the moment and that’s what they have to focus on.
“When they played for England or their national teams they have to focus on the national team and on England and this is what we have to.”
For teams in the Premier League, most have three games between now and the World Cup with a Carabao Cup clash sandwiched between two league fixtures.
Managers for club and country will be holding their breath that players in contention for a berth in Qatar come through unscathed, but as Carragher and Henry noted, it’s a scenario that should never have eventuated in the first place.