Cup eve injuries cause concern

Just days from the start of the 18th World Cup Finals coaches are still juggling team line-ups as injuries strike down some of the big names.

    Golden boot blisters: Injury worries for Ronaldo

    Suffering from blisters on both feet, Brazilian striker Ronaldo has one week to recover before the World Champions begin their title defence against Croatia in Berlin on June 13. 

    Ronaldo limped off after scoring the opening goal in his side’s 4-0 demolition of New Zealand last Sunday, however team doctor Jose Luis Runco was confident that the current occupier of the Golden Boot would have no further problems.

    "If there was a match today, Ronaldo would play without any problem," Runco said. "The blisters have healed.  It's all been sorted out."

    South American counterparts Paraguay also have injury worries with striker Jose Cardozo pulling out of the squad due to a torn thigh muscle.

    The leading goal scorer for his country, Cardozo has been replaced by 22 year old Dante Lopez who plays for Genoa in Italy.

    'Strong team'

    Jose Cardozo grimaces at the
    thought of missing the World Cup

    In better news for Paraguay, Cardozo’s attacking partner Roque Santa Cruz was declared fit to face England in the opening match of Group B on Saturday.

    Santa Cruz said: "I am looking forward to this game. England are a very strong team with great players, but we believe in ourselves and we have worked hard and prepared well."

    Also on the recovery trail is Australia's Harry Kewell, with the Socceroo midfielder cleared to play in the final warm-up match against Liechtenstein in Ulm on Wednesday.

    A niggling groin injury has been hounding Kewell since the end of the domestic season, but things were looking positive last Friday with the playmaker scoring two goals against a Dutch amateur side.

    Guus Hiddink, Australia's manager, sounded confident on Kewell’s progress. "He was playing for almost 90 minutes in the amateur game. There was no reaction and we will play him for sure in the Liechtenstein match," Hiddink said.

    Other key players nursing minor ailments include Michael Ballack, the German captain, who missed another training session yesterday due to a calf injury, England midfielder Steven Gerrard who also missed training due to a back injury, and Gennaro Gattuso who could be out of Italy’s first two matches with a thigh injury.


    "I think it will continue improving day by day and I assume I will be able to play on Friday,” Ballack said of his injury ahead of the Cup opener against Costa Rica in Munich.

    Gerrard’s injury is not thought to be too serious, but manager Sven Goran Eriksson still showed some concern.  "Everything is, so far, absolutely perfect, there are no big problems and I can't see any problems for Saturday - fingers crossed," Eriksson said.

    Gennaro Gattuso looking to return
    from injury as soon as possible

    England are also sweating on the results Wayne Rooney's foot injury scan which was scheduled for today.

    Meanwhile, the tenacious Gattuso is expected to be sidelined for two weeks, which would see him miss games against Ghana and USA in a crucial blow for the Azzurri, who are already without defender Gianluca Zambrotta who also has an injured thigh.

    In a withdrawal of another kind, Dusan Petkovic, the son of Serbia and Montenegro coach Ilija Petkovic, has pulled out of the World Cup after media uproar over his addition to the squad.

    Petkovic was called in to the Serbia & Montenegro squad by his father to replace injured striker Mirko Vucinic last week, and will now have to be replaced himself.

    "The pressure was too strong for me, my father and my team-mates. I don't want to be part of that, and I won't travel to Germany," Petkovic said.

    Petkovic senior has until the 9th June deadline to select a player to replace his son.  Serbia and Montenegro make their World Cup debut against the Netherlands on Sunday.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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