It’s every player’s dream to go to a World Cup and represent their country, but for some that dream is taken away by the dreaded curse of injury.
From broken bones to muscle injuries, a whole host of players have seen their opportunity to play on the biggest stage of all taken away – and the 2022 edition of the World Cup looks to be no different.
Paul Pogba is perhaps the most glaring absentee of all, but England boss Gareth Southgate has his own problems to worry about as he looks to better the Three Lions’ run to the semi-final in 2018.
So who is struggling, who is definitely out and who may still be fit for the World Cup?
One player who was dealt the crushing blow of being ruled out completely is Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell – who was still fighting his way back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in January.
Chilwell sustained a hamstring problem in his side’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb at the beginning of November, and he won’t be fit by the time Gareth Southgate whisks his side off to Qatar.
There’s also serious concern over Reece James, who would almost certainly have been first-choice for Gareth Southgate on the right side of defence.
The incendiary full-back has rightfully earned his stripes as an international starter courtesy of stunning club form with Chelsea but, due to the knee injury he picked up in early October, the 22-year-old will be lucky to play any part at all.
James has said that his dream of making Southgate’s 26-man list is still alive, but he’s unlikely to be available until the latter stages of the competition – and even then he won’t be match fit and acclimitised to conditions in Qatar.
More promising is the situation for Kyle Walker, another high-profile defender that Southgate would usually call upon.
Another key figurehead in the Three Lions squad, Walker hasn’t played for Manchester City since picking up a groin injury in their derby win over Manchester United at the start of October.
There is hope that he will recover in time to be able to play for England as the tournament progresses, but his lack of game time in the build up to the tournament is an obvious concern.
The same can be said about Walker’s City teammate Kalvin Phillips, who has been restricted to just 14 minutes of action for the Premier League champions since his summer move from Leeds.
The winner of England’s Player of the Year in 2021, Phillips played a pivotal role alongside Declan Rice to help the Three Lions reach the final of Euro 2020 – but fitness has always been a concern of his and injury problems have dogged him throughout his career.
There is hope that the midfielder will have regained enough fitness to make Southgate’s final squad, but he’d certainly be a risky inclusion.
Kyle Walker-Peters had an outside chance of making the Three Lions World Cup squad after picking up his first two international caps behind him in 2022. But a hamstring injury has put him out of action until late December, and he’ll instead have to focus on keeping Southampton in the Premier League.
Southgate’s midfield options are looking a lot healthier than those for his back line. Alongside Phillips, the England boss’ only concern lies with Emile Smith Rowe, who is expected to return to action close to the new year after suffering a groin injury.
Harry Kane is a certainty to lead the line for the Three Lions in Qatar, but there’s a lot of debate over his deputy – or deputies.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s chances of being Harry Kane’s understudy were dealt another blow after his withdrawal from Everton’s recent Premier League defeat to Leicester, while Callum Wilson was forced off in the second half of Newcastle’s romping win over Southampton through illness – the in-form striker is expected to be fine though.
Jadon Sancho has also been ill recently, but it’s unlikely that he’d have the made cut anyway given the plethora of attacking options at Southgate’s disposal.