Germany’s injury woes continue; Lars Bender out of World Cup squad

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Germany, tipped as one of the “not-quite-a-favorite” yet “definitely-not-a-dark-horse” teams for Brazil 2014, are starting to slide down into “well, maybe they’ll make it past the Round of 16”.

Which is good news for fans of the U.S.A., but not so great for, say, Germany.

Joachim Löw, already dealing with a host of injuries plaguing his squad, confirmed today that Lars Bender won’t be making the trip to Brazil. The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder picked up an injury in training and has been ruled out of the World Cup.

The 25-year-old is just the latest addition to Löw’s woes. Mario Gómez and İlkay Gündoğan were left off the 30-man preliminary roster after having their seasons shortened by injury. Sami Khedira missed the majority of Real Madrid’s season after tearing his ACL last year. Veteran Miroslav Klose, who could set a record for most appearances for Germany, has yet to train with the squad.

Bastian Schweinsteiger is nursing a knee injury, which kept him out of Bayern Munich’s 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in last weekend’s German Cup final. Dortmund defender Mats Hummels managed to play in the final, but is on medication for a foot injury, and missed quite a few matches this season with various knocks.

As if that weren’t enough, captain Philipp Lahm injured his ankle Bayern’s final match. Teammate Manuel Neuer, Germany’s first-choice goalkeeper, also picked up a knock, hurting his shoulder in the cup final. The two have yet to arrive at training, although it’s believed that both will be ready by the time matches start in Brazil.

Germany, who made it to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup, are included in Group G. Their first round opponents are Portugal, Ghana and the United States – none of whom will be shedding tears over the knocks their strongest competitor has taken.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

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Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.