The build up to this edition of the FIFA World Cup has been far from ideal. From mass protests at the Confederations cup last year, to delays in stadium construction, Brazil 2014 has had its fair share of problems. Even the iconic Pele has publicly criticized the organizers for the expense.
Despite the problems, the show will go on and the volume of the protests will eventually by drowned by rapturous applause for the beautiful game by the fanatical Brazilians?
However, as the football carnival arrived in town, all the problems surrounding the tournament seem to be forgotten as the attention has swung back to the action on the pitch. But things look bleak on that front as well with the ever increasing list of sidelined players due to injury. The tournament has already lost a creditable amount of talent and fans are praying there would be no more damage.
Here are three players who the fans deserved to watch at Brazil 2014.
A lower back problem forced the Bayern Munich winger to pull out of the French squad less than a week before the start of the World Cup. This would have been Ribery`s third appearance at the showpiece event of world football. After the exit of Zinedine Zidane, he has always been the leader of the French national team.
Going strictly by the vote count in FIFA`s Ballon dÓr event, the 31-year-old is the third best player in Europe, which is a pretty remarkable achievement. 16 goals in 81 matches for France, does not sufficiently highlight the importance of Ribery to his team. He is the engine that drives the team forward, running tirelessly along the sidelines, seamlessly switching flanks or moving effectively in dangerous pockets in the middle of the pitch and creating chances for his teammates.
Marco Reus was the latest high profile name to succumb to injury before the World Cup. The Borussia Dortumand star suffered an ankle injury in a warm-up game against Armenia. The versatile attacking midfielder who is comfortable on the right, left and middle of the field was an integral part of Germany`s squad this year. With consistent performances for his club side, Reus was named the Footballer of the Year in Germany for 2012.
He made the cut for UEFA team of the Year for 2013 and topped the assists charts in the Bundesliga for 2013-14. With 7 goals in 21 matches for Germany and 42 goals in 90 outings for Dortumd, Reus is definitely among world football`s most exiting talents. Having been ruled out of his first ever world cup is a cruel blow to the youngster who is on the radar of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Radamel Falcao has been fighting a knee injury that he picked up during a Coupe de France game for AS Monaco. Post his surgery, it was widely speculated that the prolific striker would miss the World Cup. However, he was only recently ruled out when the final squad was announced. His 9 goals during the qualifiers have propelled Columbia back to the finals for the first time since 1998. Columbia in fact are drawn in a relatively easy group which includes Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast, hence a fit and firing Falcao would have certainly handed them the edge.
The 28-year-old has scored 20 goals for his country in 51 appearances. In the last three years, he has been one of the most lethal strikers in European football scoring 81 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid and AS Monaco. News of his injury even prompted fans to start a `Fuerza Tigre` (stay strong Tiger) campaign on social networks.
Several other players have also succumbed to injury in the run-up to the World Cup. England`s Theo Walcott, Italy`s Riccardo Montolivo, Spain`s Thiago Alcantara, Holland`s Kevin Strootman and Rafael van Der Vaart, Germany`s Holger Badstuber and Ilkay Gundogan, Russia`s Roman Shirokov and, Belgium`s Christian Benteke will also not feature during this edition of the World Cup.
Since the World Cup is a celebration of the beautiful game by millions across the globe, it is also important to remember two megastars of modern day football – Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The fans will not have an opportunity to witness the genius of the duo as their teams did not make it to the World Cup.
However, the absence of the missing stars will only provide a platform for fresh talent to blossom. It is an opportunity for fans to find new heroes. Most importantly, the football World Cup is one such event that will help wash away the gloom surrounding the mounting injury woes ahead of the biggest show on earth.