50 Stars at Risk of Missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Welcome to Bleacher Report's countdown of 50 players who could end up missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer.
You've heard all about the injuries so we've tried to steer clear of those. Instead, we'll be focusing on players at risk of missing their nation's 23-man cut due to poor form or individual battles for certain positions.
As such, the likes of Kevin Strootman, Theo Walcott and Robbie Kruse—who have all torn their ACLs in recent months, and therefore will definitely miss the finals—are not included on this list.
Enjoy the selection, make note of the names and check those final cuts come May to see who made it in!
Ishak Belfodil, Algeria
Ishak Belfodil made a move to Internazionale last summer but after failing to find sufficient game-time, he has joined Livorno on loan for the second half of the season.
Despite receiving more minutes, he's still yet to find the net this season in Serie A for either club. He's made two appearances for Algeria, and it doesn't seem like Vahid Halilhodzic values him highly enough to take him.
Ryad Boudebouz, Algeria
Ryad Boudebouz was once a promising young winger destined for great things; now, he's booed as he enters the pitch by his own fans.
There's seemingly no place for him in Algeria's team at this moment in time, and his club form will have to improve considerably over the next two months to merit consideration for the final 23-man squad.
Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina
Esteban Cambiasso is not a favourite of Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, who prefers to deploy Javier Mascherano in the holding role behind the likes of Fernando Gago, Angel Di Maria, Walter Montillo and more.
The 4-3-3 formation has room for only one holder, and the best Cambiasso can hope for is a reserve slot covering for Mascherano. His so-so form for Internazionale, though, is working against his claim to even be in the squad.
Erik Lamela, Argentina
Erik Lamela's 2012-13 season for Roma was epic, and if he'd continued that form into his Tottenham Hotspur career, he'd have an outside shot at starting for Argentina in the World Cup.
But with just three Premier League starts under his belt and a rash of injuries stopping him from finding form, the former River Plate star's World Cup dreams lay in tatters.
La Albiceleste have too many forward options to risk taking him.
Javier Pastore, Argentina
Javier Pastore cost Paris Saint-Germain a whopping €40 million back in 2011, but the transfer hasn't really panned out as planned.
The Argentine has all but fallen off the radar for Alejandro Sabella's World Cup squad over the past 12 months after some poor form surrendered his place in the XI.
He wasn't a regular under Carlo Ancelotti and he's been a peripheral figure under Laurent Blanc.
Carlos Tevez, Argentina
Carlos Tevez is peaking as a football player but politics will ensure he doesn't get near Argentina's World Cup squad unless there's a rash of injuries on the front line.
As B/R's Jonathan Wilson has detailed before, la Albiceleste's obsession with squeezing "Carlitos" into the XI has harmed Lionel Messi's chances of replicating Barcelona form for his country.
According to Ed Malyon of The Mirror, major disturbances were caused by the player at the 2011 Copa America, leaving Alejandro Sabella no choice but to rule him out completely.
Mustafa Amini, Australia
Mustafa Amini played superbly in his first season for the Central Coast Mariners, winning a trial and subsequent move to Borussia Dortmund at just 17 years of age.
He was loaned back and played well again, but he hasn't been able to crack the BVB first team since, even amid the injury crisis suffered this year.
He's good enough to play for Australia, but he's nowhere near the squad.
Chris Herd, Australia
Chris Herd pulled out of the most recent Australia squad for personal reasons, per The Guardian, and he is currently spending time away from Aston Villa's first-team squad too.
It leaves him with a lot of ground to make up prior to the finals in Brazil this summer, as Ange Postecoglou has moved on his selection process and has begun drafting plans without him.
It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity missed.
Michy Batshuayi, Belgium
Michy Batshuayi has been somewhat vocal in his wishes to play for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup, but Marc Wilmots looks unlikely to take him.
The boss is confident in selecting just Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku to do the damage in Brazil, with Kevin Mirallas and possibly Jelle Vossen to provide depth.
It's a risky move to take only two natural strikers, but it frees up more room in midfield for choices.
Hernanes was a bit-part player during the 2013 Confederations Cup, and despite the fact Brazil won, he was the man seen as capable of bringing spark and creativity to central midfield.
But while Paulinho's grip on a starting role has lessened following a so-so season for Tottenham Hotspur, Hernanes' stock hasn't been boosted.
Instead, Fernandinho has accelerated through the gears and looks a certainty to make the squad.
Lucas Moura, Brazil
Lucas Moura has been excluded from Luiz Felipe Scolari's last two Brazil squads and has only ever been a bit-part player for the manager.
Hulk dominates the right-wing role despite fan insistence that Lucas is a better fit, and he runs the risk of not even making the squad if he can't angle some more playing time at Paris Saint-Germain.
He's losing out to Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi comfortably.
There are some minor concerns about the security of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho's spots in Brazil's 2014 World Cup squad, and if those two are in danger, Ramires is positively out in the cold.
Luiz Felipe Scolari has the luxury of choice between the aforementioned two, Fernandinho, Hernanes and potentially Jadson, further clouding the chances of Ramires going.
The Chelsea man has a real challenge to crack this team.
Eder Alvarez Balanta, Colombia
For Eder Alvarez Balanta, the 2014 World Cup has come about a year too soon.
He's Colombia's superstar youth defender with the physical makeup of an elite athlete, but his inexperience will likely see him left at home for the finals.
No doubt he'll anchor the line at the 2018 edition, and los Cafeteros could conceivably rue not taking him this time around as the defence is suspect in the air.
Radamel Falcao, Colombia
After tearing his ACL in January 2014, Radamel Falcao is only a "doubt" to play at the 2014 World Cup, according to the Colombian football association.
That's pretty optimistic given the nature of the diagnosis—"trauma in the left knee with lesion of ligament anterior cruciate," according to ESPN—and he'll do well to be cutting and jumping by the time June rolls around.
Macnelly Torres, Colombia
Macnelly Torres has thrown a nailed-on World Cup spot in the air by moving to Saudi Arabia to play domestic football.
The competition level in the Middle East is far lower than South America, and he chose to move despite previous club Atletico Nacional securing Copa Libertadores football for this season.
Torres isn't flashy, but he's key to Colombia keeping possession and does a good job alongside James Rodriguez.
Camilo Zuniga, Colombia
Camilo Zuniga has barely played this season due to a phantom knee injury, and Rafa Benitez has admitted, via Goal.com, that the medical team are mystified as to how to fix it.
He's Colombia's first-choice left-back when fit and plays a vital, vertical role in the side and if he can't get himself fit for the finals, Jose Pekerman has a big problem to solve.
Right now, it looks a bit grim.
Bryan Oviedo, Costa Rica
Bryan Oviedo's breakout season at Everton was swiftly curtailed by a broken leg in the FA Cup against Stevenage.
It was a bitter blow to the Toffees, the player and the Costa Rican national team, who were looking forward to incorporating the fully match-fit left-sider in their XI.
The injury occurred in January; is that enough time to recover and play?
Gregory Sertic, Croatia
Gregory Sertic has been waiting for papers from FIFA to change nationality for over a year, and it's becoming increasingly apparent that he won't be able to switch and be eligible for Croatia in time for the 2014 World Cup.
He's a France youth international and played for Les Bleus at Under-21 level, but he now wishes to fill the hole in the base of the Vatreni midfield.
It would take a surprising turnaround to prepare his papers in time to play.
Tom Cleverley, England
When someone creates a petition attempting to ban you from the England national squad, you know it's not going so well.
That's the quandary Tom Cleverley faces right now, and with Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley and Co. all stepping it up in the league and in an England shirt, the Manchester United man's chances of going to Brazil are slipping.
He definitely won't start, but will he be in the squad at all?
Ashley Cole, England
Ashley Cole's 107 England caps and solid performance levels should carry him into the 2014 World Cup squad, but his lack of playing time is a serious concern.
Cesar Azpilicueta has stolen his spot at left-back and is performing superbly, while Luke Shaw is making waves in Southampton's first team on a consistent basis.
With Shaw making his debut against Denmark in place of Cole, the Chelsea veteran knows he has a serious fight on his hands to make it to Brazil.
Jermain Defoe, England
Jermain Defoe took an almighty risk this January: He accepted an offer from Toronto in MLS and left Tottenham Hotspur yet again.
Six months before the World Cup, and with Jay Rodriguez breathing firmly down his neck for a spot on the plane, that's one hell of a card to play.
Luckily, he's off to a strong start with three goals in two games.
Rickie Lambert, England
When Rickie Lambert scored with his first England touch against Scotland, national media outlets fell over themselves to praise him for his passion to wear the shirt.
At the time he was backing up that desire with some brilliant performances but over the course of the 2013-14 season, he's declined ever so slightly—or the opposition have worked him out.
At one stage he had the upper hand over Andy Carroll but now it's a 50-50 choice.
Frank Lampard, England
Not only has Frank Lampard's stronghold on an England spot diminished, but his place in the Chelsea XI is under threat too.
Nemanja Matic has come in and shown he's a superior player and a superior fit in Jose Mourinho's 4-2-3-1, meaning "Lamps" is left benched for half the games.
After missing Euro 2012 through injury, Roy Hodgson has shown he can soldier on without the centurion just fine.
Jack Wilshere, England
Jack Wilshere fractured his foot in England's latest friendly with Denmark, endangering his potential participation at the 2014 World Cup.
He'll take at least six weeks to recover and if he can't get a run of games at the tail end of the season, he could be ruled out of contention.
As per Goal.com, Roy Hodgson has warned he'll only take 100 percent fit players to Brazil.
Ashley Young, England
Ashley Young started England's first game against France at Euro 2012 but since then his career has been in decline.
He's maligned by Manchester United fans and has missed several squads of late, with injuries blighting his showings and preventing him from getting a run of games.
When he's good he's good, but those days come around far too sparsely.
Eric Abidal, France
Eric Abidal's form this season hasn't been brilliant, and he's beginning to show his age at the heart of Monaco's defence.
Mamadou Sakho has emerged as a near-elite option at left-centre-back and Laurent Koscielny is a first-teamer too, meaning Abidal is restricted to a back-up left-back role at best.
Concerning for the stalwart.
Gael Clichy, France
Gael Clichy's chances of making the French squad hinge not only on his own form to finish the season but also on Eric Abidal's.
Patrice Evra is firmly entrenched as the first-choice left-back and it's a fight between the two to make the team as back-up; Abidal, as noted in the previous slide, is in dodgy form, but Clichy will be concerned Aleksandar Kolarov appears to be Manuel Pellegrini's first choice at club level.
The former Arsenal man managed just 180 minutes during the qualifiers.
Yoann Gourcuff, France
In the buildup to the 2010 World Cup, most national newspaper spreads listed Yoann Gourcuff in their "Players to Watch" category.
The selection was justified—the Frenchman was coming into his own as a playmaker at Bordeaux and beginning to pull the strings at international level too—but he turned in two anonymous performances and was benched for the final group game.
Now, he's at risk of not even making the 23-man squad. His form for Lyon is picking up, but will it be enough?
Samir Nasri, France
For Samir Nasri, read Carlos Tevez.
A stupendously talented playmaker and finisher playing first-team football for a top club, the former Arsenal man would be a shoo-in if it weren't for his "toxic" nature, as described by ESPN.
French analysts remain unconvinced he fits the system Didier Deschamps uses, he was left out of the recent friendly against the Netherlands and Antoine Griezmann's emergence into the first team loosens his weak grip further.
Mario Gomez, Germany
Mario Gomez's big move to Fiorentina hasn't gone to plan so far, with persistent knee injuries keeping him from hitting top form.
He's recently returned to the first team and has begun clocking up the minutes again, but he's got a lot to do—and a lot to prove—after Joachim Low began experimenting with new ideas in his absence.
Germany are in no way dependent on Gomez.
Ilkay Gundogan, Germany
Bastian Schweinsteiger is becoming less durable, so for Germany to have an elite option at central midfield to step in by the name of Ilkay Gundogan was seen as fantastic by players and fans alike.
Unfortunately, the Borussia Dortmund ace has been injured all season long. He claimed the Man of the Match award in the DFL Supercup before the Bundesliga campaign kicked off, then he suffered spinal stenosis and is currently out with bronchitis, per ESPN.
Sami Khedira, Germany
As per NBC Sports, Sami Khedira sustained a serious knee injury in November 2013 and can only hope to return to action before the season ends.
He was key to Germany's midfield before he went down and Joachim Low values his input, but will they risk playing him if he's not fit to go?
They did it with Bastian Schweinsteiger at Euro 2012 and it backfired noticeably.
Alessandro Florenzi, Italy
Alessandro Florenzi's best position is...
If you can complete that sentence, get into coaching immediately.
He plays everywhere—literally everywhere—but Roma's recruitment of Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan have harmed his chances of going to the World Cup as a central midfielder.
Rudi Garcia is playing him wide, and he may not make the cut as a winger or wide forward.
Stephan El Shaarawy, Italy
Stephan El Shaarawy hasn't played a full game since August and won't resume playing for Milan until April, per Goal.com.
That's hardly a player in tip-top condition that you'd be wanting to take to the World Cup, and he could well rejoin the Rossoneri fold and play poorly along with his team-mates.
Cesare Prandelli has spent the last six months looking at options outside of Il Faraone, and it might be too late for him to force his way back in.
Angelo Ogbonna, Italy
Angelo Ogbonna chose money and medals over starting experience and personal development last summer in moving to Juventus.
He had the pick of Italian clubs, he could have joined centre-back-needy Milan or an unstable Internazionale side; instead, he sits on the bench behind Italy's first-choice trio at club and international level.
Giuseppe Rossi, Italy
Giuseppe Rossi started this season on fire, netting 14 goals and three assists from 18 starts in Serie A for Fiorentina.
In January, he suffered yet another knee injury, though, halting excited talk of him leading the line for Italy during the World Cup finals.
His recovery is ahead of schedule according to Football Italia, but it remains a race to get him fit for June.
Marco Verratti, Italy
Marco Verratti has been in superb form for Paris Saint-Germain this season, but his impact on the Italian national side remains limited.
He has just four caps in total and Cesare Prandelli has a wealth of midfield options to choose from, so it may take a few truly special showings in the Champions League to convince the boss to take him.
He's capable of it, but will Prandelli take the plunge?
Lacina Traore, Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast have a lot of strikers to choose from, and Lacina Traore's recent hamstring tear could just rule him out of contention.
The Daily Mail have confirmed he's progressing quicker than expected, but even when he returns, will he usurp Romelu Lukaku and start?
Best not to pack your bags, Lacina. The chances look slim at this point.
Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands
Wesley Sneijder has been the Netherlands' best player at the last two consecutive international tournaments, but risks not even going to the 2014 World Cup.
He doesn't fit into the 4-3-3 system Louis van Gaal wants to play; He's played as a flat central midfielder for Oranje and off the left wing for Galatasaray, but at no point has he looked good enough.
Not only is he not in the XI, he may not make the squad. He just doesn't fit the formation.
Portugal have a big question mark hanging over the central striker's role in their 4-3-3, and while Eder of Braga might just be the ideal fit, he's been plagued by injuries all season.
He's made just a single start in the current campaign and seen action three times as a substitute, meaning he's far from fit enough to take centre stage in Bento's plans.
The six-cap striker is likely to watch from home.
Fernando has re-nationalised to Portugal, but will Paulo Bento take him to the World Cup?
Despite his obvious, natural fit for the anchor role in their 4-3-3 and Bento's appreciation for him as a player, taking Fernando would mean excluding one of William Carvalho or Miguel Veloso.
On paper, Veloso is a horrible fit for the deepest midfield position and should be dropped in favour of the FC Porto star. But he's ingrained in the squad and Bento likes him, so this one's up in the air.
Jose Fonte, Portugal
Jose Fonte has put together a strong season in Southampton's defence alongside Dejan Lovren, but he's still yet to breach the Portugal setup under Paulo Bento.
When you consider the paucity of options available to Os Seleccao that comes as a major surprise, as Bruno Alves and Pepe haven't shown their best form of the past 12 months (for the national side) and the former is declining.
Ricardo Quaresma, Portugal
The way Ricardo Quaresma has reignited his career at FC Porto has been nothing short of astonishing, and it's difficult to argue with the impact he's made at the club.
That said, it may not be enough to complete a successful late push for a place at the World Cup with Portugal—even if Paulo Bento's regular choice Silvestre Varela isn't playing well.
Quaresma's immaturity and selfishness have always been red flags; Is he the sort of player you want at a tournament?
Park Chu Young, South Korea
Park Chu Young is still on Arsenal's books—hands up if you'd forgotten that!
The striker, currently on loan at Watford, has had very little playing time over the last two years and that has shown in his lack of action for South Korea.
The national side are distinctly unimpressed with his lack of match fitness and sharpness, and they have been exploring new avenues throughout qualifying.
Alvaro Arbeloa, Spain
The Daily Star have confirmed Alvaro Arbeloa sustained an injury in March that would keep him out for two months.
It leaves the Real Madrid man, who is often maligned as the weakest player in Spain's squad, in a race to find form at the very end of the season—but in his way stands one of a number of contestants for his right-back berth.
Dani Carvajal, Juanfran, Carlos Martinez and Hugo Mallo are all in strong form, while Martin Montoya continues to push.
Roberto Soldado, Spain
Even worse, he's had an awful first season in England with Tottenham Hotspur—with the possible exception of the last two weeks—and would need to do something miraculous to barge his way back into the squad.
Fernando Torres, Spain
Fernando Torres' situation is just as fragile as Roberto Soldado's, and with that stack of Spanish strikers performing so well, the pressure is on.
Unfortunately, he's essentially lost his place in Chelsea's starting XI to Samuel Eto'o, who after a slow start to life in England has really picked it up.
That he plays for the Blues, who are a massive club, and that he's been part of the squads in the past could be his only saving grace.
Jozy Altidore, USMNT
Julian Green has officially applied for a nationality switch to feature for the U.S., and the timing of the change implies Jurgen Klinsmann has perhaps promised him a spot in his squad for the upcoming tournament.
So with the squad looking rather settled before this decision, whose place is at risk?
If Green is to feature in the forward line, Jozy Altidore—who couldn't even make the bench for the Capital One Cup final—should be very, very worried.
Michael Parkhurst, USMNT
Michael Parkhurst swapped a regular role with Nordsjaelland for a bench role at Augsburg last season, then rectified the move by coming back to MLS in 2014.
He's playing centre-back for Columbus Crew, but the international team is stacked at that position. Can he see off the challenge of Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Clarence Goodson?
It's a gamble, but something had to be done. He simply wasn't playing in Germany.
Maurice Edu, USMNT
Maurice Edu's decision to join Stoke City was a disaster, but he is at least actively seeking playing time away on loan.
He played sporadically for Bursaspor last year and has landed with Philadelphia Union for the 2014 MLS season, but central midfield is the United States' strongest area.
Can he convince Jurgen Klinsmann to take him?