Monday, December 4, 2023

World Cup injury watch: Diogo Jota, Richarlison, Bukayo Saka, Paul Pogba – Who’s out? Who’s a doubt?

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The Qatar 2022 World Cup starts on 20 November – with a unique winter build-up meaning many of the world’s top stars playing club football right up until a week before the tournament starts.

England already have their own defensive worries and a packed domestic schedule will surely mean further scares for manager Gareth Southgate, with Wales boss Rob Page also closely monitoring his squad.

But which other countries have real worries over the fitness of their key men?


Few thought the right-back position would be an area of concern for Southgate, especially given the plethora of options he’s historically had at his disposal. However, that has all changed in recent weeks.

Reece James: a knee injury picked up against AC Milan leaves the Chelsea man a major doubt for the tournament.

Kyle Walker: The Manchester City defender was left with six weeks to recover his fitness after groin surgery – but says he is “confident” of making the World Cup squad.

Kalvin Phillips: The Manchester City midfielder is a major doubt after a dislocated shoulder suffered in September but City manager Pep Guardiola said Phillips is “optimistic” about being fit in time for the tournament.

Kyle Walker-Peters: The Southampton full-back is set to be sidelined for the “long term” with a hamstring injury, after being forced off in Saints’ 1-0 win over Bournemouth in late October.

Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal winger went off injured against Nottingham Forest. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta says Saka is “hopefully not” a doubt for the World Cup.


Gareth Bale should be fit to lead Wales’ first World Cup campaign in 64 years despite appearing sparingly for Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC.

Tom Lawrence: The Dragons will probably be without the Rangers forward in the Gulf state after he aggravated a knee injury that could sideline him until December.

Joe Allen: The veteran midfielder has not played for Swansea in more than a month after going down with a hamstring problem but Swans boss Russel Martin said “he has a chance” of being fit in time.


Didier Deschamps’ defending champions have arguably the largest injury list – from an admittedly frighteningly strong squad – of any country heading into the four-week event.

N’Golo Kante: The defensive midfielder will miss the World Cup following surgery to correct a hamstring problem.

Paul Pogba: The former Manchester United midfielder has not played since returning to Juventus this summer following knee surgery and Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri said it is “very unlikely” he will play before the World Cup.

Wesley Fofana: Kante’s Chelsea team-mate limped off during the 3-0 Champions League home win over AC Milan and is unlikely to play for the Blues before the World Cup.

Lucas Hernandez: The Bayern Munich utility man injured his groin in a Champions League victory over Barcelona last month but Bayern expect him to start making his return in November.

Boubacar Kamara: The 22-year-old tore knee ligaments just eight matches into his Aston Villa career and was expected to be out until after the World Cup but reports suggest his rehab has gone better than anticipated and he could yet make the tournament.

Raphael Varane: The 29-year-old left the pitch in tears during Manchester United’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea after suffering a leg injury. Manager Erik ten Hag said he will be out until the tournament but they will have to “see how his rehab will develop” whether he will be fit in time.

Anthony Martial: Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag said forward Martial will miss Sunday’s game against West Ham with a back injury but added the 26-year-old is improving and is back on the training pitch.


One Premier League player remains a major doubt for a Brazil side looking to lift the World Cup for the first time since 2002, but injured Richarlison is now likely to compete.

Richarlison: The Tottenham forward was seen on crutches after suffering a calf injury in Spurs’ 2-0 win over Everton on 15 October, but Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says the Brazil forward should be available for the World Cup following a scan.

Richarlison added on Twitter: “Guys, thank God it was just a big scare!! Two weeks and I’ll be back! Thank you for the messages and affection.”

Arthur Melo: Liverpool’s on-loan Juventus midfielder was not so upbeat on social media, saying he expects a thigh injury to keep him out of contention for a place on the plane to Qatar and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp confirmed the injury is “long term” and “really serious”.


Manager Fernando Santos could be deprived of the services of four important players for their Group H campaign against Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay.

Diogo Jota: The Liverpool forward will miss the World Cup after he was taken off on a stretcher with a thigh injury in added time of their 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester City on 18 October.

Pedro Neto: Wolves said the 22-year-old striker will miss the World Cup after an ankle injury sustained against West Ham on 1 October left him requiring surgery.

Pepe and Nuno Mendes: Porto expect 39-year-old Pepe to miss several games with a sprained knee, while fellow defender Mendes will be out for a few weeks with a muscle issue.


The Germans’ main worries centre on a Die Mannschaft stalwart with 48 caps and 15 international goals to his name and a Bayern Munich forward in good form.

Marco Reus: The 33-year-old Borussia Dortmund skipper damaged ankle ligaments in September. An ankle injury also kept him out of Germany’s World Cup triumph in Brazil in 2014. He returned for Dortmund in their 2-0 defeat to Union Berlin but has since suffered another setback.

Leroy Sane: The 26-year-old tore his left thigh muscle during Bayern Munich’s 5-0 win over Freiburg. He is expected to return in early November.

Manuel Neuer: Goalkeeper Neuer remains sidelined with a shoulder injury and Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann said he doesn’t know whether the 36-year-old will be fit for the World Cup. “If he still has persistent pain in five weeks, then he won’t play in it,” he said.


The Netherlands, a potential last-16 opponent for England or Wales, will also be missing an experienced international operator.

Georginio Wijnaldum: The 31-year-old former Liverpool midfielder, capped 86 times, suffered a fractured tibia in his right leg after just playing one game on loan at Roma.


The 2014 runners-up will also have to cope without a Roma man.

Paulo Dybala: The 28-year-old will miss the competition after picking up a freak thigh injury while taking a penalty for Jose Mourinho’s side in Serie A in early October.

Angel Di Maria: The former Manchester United winger also suffered a thigh injury on Champions League duty for Juventus and will be out for three weeks, leaving him in a race against time to be fit.

United States

The US, Group B opponents of England and Wales, have two key injuries at either end of the pitch.

Daryl Dike: The West Bromwich Albion striker has been out with a thigh issue since August and it is still unknown whether he will return before the November break.

Miles Robinson: An Achilles tendon tear has ruled out the Atlanta United centre-back.


Boss Gerardo Martino has huge concerns over two of his top stars, but says he will give both until the very last minute to prove their fitness.

Raul Jimenez: The Wolves forward has not played since 31 August due to a groin injury and is a huge doubt for the tournament but flew back to England on Friday after three weeks in South America recovering from the injury. He now faces a race against the clock to be fit.

Jesus Corona: Winger Corona broke his leg in August and despite recovering ahead of schedule, Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said he will not be fit in time to play for Mexico at the World Cup.


Marcelo Brozovic: The Inter Milan midfielder has not played in almost a month after coming off with a thigh injury during Croatia’s Nations League win over Austria in September but could return for Inter’s Serie A match against Sampdoria on Saturday.


Ronald Araujo: Barcelona stated in September the defender would likely miss the tournament due to surgery on a torn thigh muscle that would keep him out for two to three months.


Jakub Moder: The Brighton midfielder will not feature for the Poles in Qatar after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in April.


Atiba Hutchinson: The Canada captain, 39, has not played at all this term for his club side, Turkish outfit, Besiktas, after suffering a bone bruise in pre-season but hopes to be fit in time to play in Qatar.


Imran Louza: Watford midfielder Louza, 23, will miss the tournament after breaking his leg against Millwall in mid-October.

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