Early Doors

Missing men

Early Doors

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Michael Essien is the latest top player to be ruled out of the World Cup after he failed to recover from a knee injury.

The Chelsea midfielder's absence is not exactly a surprise as he's played just 45 minutes of competitive action all year but, as one of the best midfielders around, he is a big loss for Ghana and the tournament as a whole.

Without their captain and superstar player, the Black Stars will be even more reliant on the inexperience of their young squad.

In fact, through a combination of injuries and moments of managerial madness (yes, Diego, Early Doors is looking at you), this World Cup will be without several notable absentees, and this is even before the provisional squads have all been cut.

Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina): The pair have been two of Internazionale's star performers in their run to their historic treble, but they are evidently not good enough for Diego Maradona. Zanetti may be 36, but he looks as though he has barely aged in his 15 seasons at Inter. He apparently fell out with Maradona after losing the captaincy to Javier Mascherano and giving the team new tactics following the manager's team talks. As for Cambiasso, it seems there is space in the Albiceleste midfield for the creaking Juan Sebastian Veron and the Championship's Jonas Gutierrez, but not for him.

Adriano, Pato, Ronaldinho (Brazil): ED has to admit that it likes Dunga's approach to managing Brazil. It may disappoint those who long for the trademark samba skills, but his pragmatic approach has been very effective, already winning them the Copa America and seeing them top the qualifying in South America. However, with names such as Kleberson, Gilberto Silva, Gilberto and Julio Baptista in his provisional squad, can he really afford to leave out the above trio, especially Pato? Nike must have been gutted that they gave Ronaldinho such a prominent role in their epic new World Cup commercial.

Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri (France): Benzema cost Real Madrid somewhere in the region of £25m last summer. Raymond Domenech preferred to call up Panathinaikos's Djibril Cisse instead. Nasri has made real progress this season, and is a candidate to step into the Cesc Fabregas-shaped hole that will soon be appearing at Arsenal, but Domenech plumped for his gangly team-mate Abou Diaby instead.

When you look at some of those omissions, suddenly that £6m-a-year pay packet for Fabio Capello doesn't seem so obscene after all.

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England are actually one of the few leading sides who are yet to lose any important players, either through injury or human error (that distant knocking sound you can here is that of your fellow ED readers frantically touching wood after reading that line).

There had been an injury scare involving Steven Gerrard yesterday when he limped out of training and had his calf treated at the side of the training pitch.

However, it looks to have been a false alarm as the FA have announced he will take full part in training today, but it shows just how jittery we are all made to feel around this time. These sort of incidents happen all the time during the domestic season without inducing such panic amongst a club's supporters, but when it's in the build-up to a major tournament every stubbed toe, paper cut and hangnail becomes a drama.

England's only real injury drama involves Gareth Barry, though, and Capello is bullish about his chances of being fit.

Capello said: "His recovery time is shorter than we thought. We are going to decide next week. We are very confident."

So there. Everything's fine.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The way I look at it, Scotland aren't in it and I hope England do well. They are our nearest neighbours and I hope they do well." Expect Craig Levein be sacked as Scotland manager any day now.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I heard it on my car radio and, at first, I thought it must be April 1. Well, I guess it's better to have taken a decision than none at all." Hamburg legend Uwe Seeler thought the news that the club had employed Armin Veh as their new manager was a practical joke.

COMING UP: Just the one international friendly this evening, but it's one well worth keeping an eye on: live commentary of Republic of Ireland v Algeria kicks off at 19:45 this evening.

Our live coverage of the Giro d'Italia and French Open both roll on, with Andy Murray v Marcos Baghdatis due fourth on the Suzanne Lenglen court. Follow live text commentary right here or watch live on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521), Eurosport HD (Sky 412 / Virgin 522) & on the Eurosport Player.                     

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