World Cup worries XI: key men with cause to fret over Russia 2018

 World Cup worries XI: key men with cause to fret over Russia 2018

A metatarsal break, his third in less than a year, means the Bayern Munich goalkeeper has not played since mid-September. Neuer’s style and competency with the ball at his feet were key features of his country’s World Cup win in 2014, meaning Joachim Löw has carefully monitored his No 1’s progress and is confident he will return in April, although this will be after Bayern have won league, leaving him to rely on the Champions League for truly competitive action.


Since moving to Manchester City last summer Mendy has become known for his social media presence rather than his attributes on the pitch after being ruled out with knee ligament damage after only five games with his new club in September. Mendy has returned to training but is yet to prove he is fit enough to be part of Pep Guardiola’s high-octane team as they close on the title. Mendy will need plenty of time to get up to speed for club and country.

Victor Lindelöf, Sweden


The move to Manchester United was supposed to be the making of the former Benfica defender but he has been unable to convince José Mourinho that he can be a Old Trafford regular. Lindelöf has featured only three times in the Premier League since the start of the year. During the play-off victory over Italy his resolute defending was one of the key reasons Sweden stopped the Azzurri from scoring in 180 minutes but a rusty Lindelöf may not have the same resilience.

Rafa Márquez, Mexico


History is in Márquez’s sights, as he would become the third player to feature at five World Cups, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Antonio Carabajal and Germany’s Lothar Matthäus. After playing at last summer’s Confederations Cup, the 39-year-old was sanctioned by the United States for alleged links to drug trafficking, which he denies, and he missed three months of football fighting the allegation. Now he is back playing for his club, Atlas, but could not be called up for the latest round of friendlies as he is banned from entering the US.

Danny Rose, England


After nine months out with a knee injury the season has looked like a struggle for the defender. He is no longer a guaranteed starter, with Ben Davies being selected ahead of him for a number of crucial games. Rose’s natural athleticism does not seem to be at the level it was before his injury and if England are to play a back three then they will need a left wing-back who can provide energy for 90 minutes up and down the flank, something Rose cannot guarantee currently. His underwhelming performance against Netherlands will not have helped convince many otherwise, too.

Juan Cuadrado, Colombia


Massimiliano Allegri is becoming increasingly concerned that the winger will be unable to play again for Juventus this season even though he was originally only ruled out for a month. The Colombian will be key for his team in Russia as they attempt to turn a few heads but there is no timeline for when we will return from the groin surgery he underwent in January.


There is no doubting the Everton midfielder is the star man in the Iceland team, so the announcement that he would be out for up to eight weeks with a knee injury will have left Heimir Hallgrímsson worried. Sigurdsson’s set pieces and extra quality on the ball could be the difference for his nation as they prepare to face Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.

Tim Cahill, Australia


When the Socceroos need a big performance they invariably turn to the veteran midfielder, who has scored 50 goals in his 104 internationals. At 38 there is no doubting his best days are well and truly behind him but his presence in a group of players aiming to get out of a tough group could be vital. Cahill left Melbourne City in search of more minutes but his hailed return to Millwall has resulted in cameos and little more, amassing only 41 minutes on the pitch. Even Australia did not require his services in their 4-1 loss to Norway on Friday, leaving him on the bench.

Neymar, Brazil


The tears when Neymar limped off against Marseille were a sign of the Brazilian’s problem, knowing that his season was essentially over because of a broken metatarsal. His move to Paris Saint-Germain has taken him no closer to winning the Ballon d’Or as him team waltz to the Ligue 1 title and had their Champions League hopes crushed by Real Madrid, leaving the World Cup as Neymar’s only chance to show he is one of the planet’s elite.

Harry Kane, England


A third ankle injury in quick succession means the Spurs striker is making Gareth Southgate nervous and is unlikely to play for his club again until late April. Kane has scored 24 goals in the league this season and his prolific nature is something England may need to rely on in Russia. Since Southgate has taken charge Kane has scored seven goals in six England appearances, a sign of his importance to his team.

Paolo Guerrero, Peru


The veteran striker scored five goals in qualifying to help Peru to their first World Cup since 1982 but his chances of making it to Russia looked to be over when he was given a one-year ban for testing positive for cocaine. A successful appeal, however, resulted in the suspension being reduced to six months, allowing him to return to the pitch in May but whether the 34-year-old can get up to speed within a month is unknown.

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