FIFA President Sepp Blatter has spoken out about the recent spate of injuries affecting the 2014 World Cup.
Blatter told reporters, “[it’s] too long a season and always the same players are always in the same competitions. Now they are tired.”
He may have a point. Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo, both of whom played in the Champions League final, are struggling to shake off injuries. Franck Ribéry and Marco Reus both played in the German Cup final, and both have seen their World Cup dreams fall by the wayside.
However, Riccardo Montolivio, who broke a leg in Italy’s friendly with Ireland, saw his Milan side’s Champions League hopes ended by March. Radamel Falcao and Monaco were only playing in domestic competitions, as were Kevin Strootman and Roma, and Christian Benteke and Aston Villa.
Besides, can injuries such as broken legs really be blamed on the amount of matches played in a season?
Perhaps Blatter should consider examining friendlies – which aren’t always so friendly. Brazil’s win over Serbia certainly showed that, as did the hard tackling of the Honduras players in Saturday night’s goalless draw with England.
Such friendlies do carry weight. They’re factored in when FIFA ranks international squads, which in turn affects which teams are seeded for international tournaments, thus giving them more favorable draws. These warmups have also been stages upon which teams can signal their preparedness for the World Cup, hoping to send a warning for other sides to not discount them quite so soon.
Obviously friendlies aren’t the only problem. But quite a few players were set to board the plane, only to be left behind due to an injury picked up in a warm-up match. Montolivo and Reus are two such players. So too is Nigeria’s Elderson. Costa Rica’s Álvaro Saborío and Holland’s Rafael van der Vaart picked up injuries while preparing for the World Cup.
Maybe, in addition to reconsidering the structure of the soccer calendar, in which many players feature in two (or more) games per week, it’s also time to put some thought into how friendlies in general, and World Cup preparation in particular, should be handled.