Drogba, Ferdinand out of actionSeveral more stars hurt with a week to go before first game
The grind of the World Cup begins in a week. The buildup already has been damaging for many teams.
By: Barry Wilner, Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG — The grind of the World Cup begins in a week. The buildup already has been damaging for many teams.
Ivory Coast may have lost its star and captain, Didier Drogba, when he broke his right arm Friday in a 2-0 warmup victory over Japan.
England captain Rio Ferdinand is done after injuring ligaments in his left knee during practice hours before Drogba was hurt.
Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo is resting at home in Milan with a calf injury that could force him out of the world soccer championship.
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar missed practice for the second straight day as he recovers from a back injury.
And American striker Jozy Altidore has a sprained right ankle that makes him doubtful for Saturday’s tuneup match against Australia.
Injuries have run through nearly every team from every continent well before the World Cup begins. Nowhere is the agony stronger than in Ivory Coast.
Drogba, one of the world’s best midfielders, led Chelsea to the English Premier League title this season, scoring 29 goals.But he told teammate Kolo Toure that he will miss the World Cup after being hurt in the warmup match in Sion, Switzerland.
“For him, he said, the World Cup is finished,” Toure said.
The 32-year-old Drogba was taken off 15 minutes into the game after a high challenge by Japan defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka. He was then rushed to a hospital.
“We can just see on his face that he was sad, and when he is like that you can’t ask more,” Toure said. “It is difficult for us because he is such a really important player.”
Team spokesman Eric Kacou told The Associated Press that “it is a fracture in his right arm,” but coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said the team hadn’t officially ruled out its captain.
“We are not sure yet,” Eriksson said, adding Drogba’s participation — the Ivorians open June 15 against Portugal — was “still a possibility.”
Tulio said he had no intention of hurting Drogba.
“God and everybody in the stadium saw it was a normal challenge,” said the Brazil-born defender, who was shown a yellow card. “I do hope he gets better in time to play in the World Cup.”
Ferdinand, who starts in central defense with John Terry, hobbled out of a hospital on crutches after hurting his knee while defending against striker Emile Heskey during England’s first full training session in South Africa.
The English open against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12, and Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, who was cut Tuesday, is expected to replace Ferdinand on the roster.
“It came from a minor tackle during the training,” England coach Fabio Capello said.
England goalkeeper David James was unable to train with his teammates and had to work separately in the gym because of knee woes.
Pirlo, the player of the match when Italy beat France to win the 2006 World Cup, injured his left calf in an exhibition loss to Mexico on Wednesday and will sit out the warmup game against Switzerland on Saturday.
The Italian Football Federation said the midfielder will travel with the team to South Africa and continue to be evaluated ahead of Italy’s first match, against Paraguay on June 14. A team doctor said such injuries take 15 to 20 days to heal.
Cesar underwent physiotherapy at the team’s hotel Friday. He fell awkwardly and injured his back in the team’s 3-0 win over Zimbabwe on Wednesday in Harare. Doctors say the injury is not serious and should not keep the goalkeeper from playing in Brazil’s opener against North Korea on June 15.
“It’s not a big problem,” coach Dunga said. “In two or three days, he will be back to normal.”
Starting left back Michel Bastos left practice with an ankle problem. Brazil team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said Michel Bastos was hit in the right ankle, but the injury was not a concern.
Altidore should be OK for the U.S.-England match, and his teammates fully expect to see the striker at his peak.
He was injured during training Wednesday.
“We all hope Jozy will get better. We think he will,” keeper Tim Howard said. “We’re not losing sleep over it.”
Perhaps FIFA should be losing sleep over these injuries, says Jose Luis Chilavert, Paraguay’s former standout keeper.
“FIFA should plan ahead and give the players more time to rest to have a good World Cup,” he told The Associated Press. “Sadly, what happens is that the commercial side is what moves everything nowadays.
“Sometimes the commercial aspect is more influential than the sporting and then you put the body at risk. The truth is that the football player wants to play, but you have to take into account that the body needs rest and that we’re not robots.
“You have to take precautions in the right moment. If I was a coach, I wouldn’t be playing friendly (matches) at this time.”
AP Sports Writers Ricardo Zuniga and Tales Azzoni in Johannesburg, Rob Harris in Rustenberg and Graham Dunbar in Sion, Switzerland, contributed to this report.