The 2022 World Cup is the most important event in soccer this year. It is one of the biggest international events in the world, and every four years, billions of people watch as teams compete to win the most important tournament in the sport.
However, the 2022 edition of the tournament has been surrounded by controversy since Qatar was announced as the host country; due to a corrupt bidding process and reports of human rights violations, among other controversies. The controversies have been so numerous that there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to the issues surrounding the event.
With only a few weeks remaining before the first games of the tournament, two more issues, in this case regarding players, have arisen; injuries and form.
Injury Impacts of the 2022 World Cup
A few weeks ago, Manchester United and Chelsea were in the middle of what would eventually become a 1-1 draw. At around the 58th minute, Raphael Varane attempted to make a tackle on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Varane is one of France’s most important players, he scored a goal in the quarterfinal of the 2018 World Cup against Uruguay and started the final of the tournament as France won the World Cup.
After the first few weeks of the season, Varane seemed set to be one of France’s starting center-backs yet again at this year’s World Cup after an incredible start to the season for Manchester United. However, during that challenge in the 58th minute, Varane’s right foot landed strangely, and he was substituted out of the game due to an apparent injury.
Varane, 29, was visibly emotional immediately while he was leaving the field. His teammates and opponents attempted to comfort him, and his concerns were obvious; he feared missing the 2022 World Cup.
The next day, it was revealed he would miss about four weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury, with Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag stating he would not play again before the 2022 World Cup. It is still unclear whether or not Varane will be able to join France for the tournament later this month for what could be his final opportunity to play in the World Cup.
Unfortunately, France and Varane are not the only player or country that have been affected by injuries during the first few months of the season before the World Cup.
Another example is Reece James, who almost certainly would have started at right-back for England after an incredible start to the season for Chelsea. James suffered an injury against AC Milan at the start of last month. He will likely miss the World Cup, his first opportunity to play in the tournament, due to the injury.
The injury issues have extended to the United States Men’s National Team. Both Luca de la Torre and Weston McKennie have sustained injuries over the last few weeks that could impact the 2022 World Cup.
There are concerns that McKennie, who suffered a quadriceps injury that could require a 15-day recovery, could miss the first game of the World Cup, while De La Torre could miss the tournament altogether, both players have never played in a World Cup.
Matt Turner, who is likely to be the United States starting goalkeeper at the tournament if he is healthy, had a groin strain during training for Arsenal last week. Tyler Adams, another one of the US’ most important players, was injured over the past few weeks before returning for Leeds United’s 2-1 win against Liverpool last weekend.
These are just a few examples of players whose participation, or at the very least preparation, for the World Cup has been affected by injuries caused by the start of their season. However, injury impacts will extend beyond just whether or not players will be able to participate in the tournament; to team selection and fitness.
A few examples of this come from other players on the United States Men’s National Team. Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok, two players who are competing to make the team, have had minor injuries this season that have resulted in both players missing games, disrupting how well they were playing.
Giovanni Reyna, who suffered an injury during the United States’ international friendlies in September, has only played in seven Bundesliga games so far this season and has not yet played 90 minutes in any game this year.
Nearly every time a player leaves a game early this season, there are immediate concerns about their status for the World Cup. Last weekend, during Arsenal’s 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest, Bukayo Saka left the game in the 28th minute after trying to play with an ankle injury sustained earlier in the game.
Saka was one of the main reasons England reached the final of Euro 2020, and is one of the team’s most important players.
Fortunately, Saka’s injury was reportedly minor, and he should be healthy by the time England begins their first game of the tournament on November 21, but Sunday’s game was another reminder of how significant what would be a minor injury in another season can be this year.
The World Cup will always be impacted by injuries, as will any other sports competition. However, the 2022 tournament is unique because a minor injury in a player’s final game before the 2022 World Cup will almost certainly result in them missing the tournament, something unique to this season.
At a time when players are possibly playing more games and minutes than at any other period of the sport’s history, the injury impacts on the World Cup will be one of the major storylines of the next few weeks and the start of the tournament.
Form Ahead of the World Cup
Another factor that could affect the World Cup is preparation and form for both players and teams. The United States will announce its World Cup roster on November 9, four days before the final games in each European league before the World Cup begins and only 12 days before the United States’ first game of the tournament.
In 2014, the United States’ most recent appearance in the World Cup, the players selected for the preliminary roster reported for training on May 14. The US then played three friendlies to assist in team selection and preparation before the tournament began, almost a month later, on June 12.
This year, the preparation for every team will be drastically different. The United States is currently holding practices for MLS players whose seasons have ended ahead of the tournament, but most of the players likely to be a part of the US team in a few weeks are still playing in European leagues.
These impacts could extend to players who will be important parts of their national teams at the World Cup but haven’t been playing often in their leagues so far this season. Those players will have to hope practices before the tournament begins will prepare them enough for the tournament.
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