France’s World Cup hopes were dealt a huge blow on Friday as Franck Ribery joined a mounting list of stars ruled out of the tournament through injury.
Bayern Munich star Ribery pulled up with a back injury at France’s Clairefontaine training camp on Friday as Les Bleus prepared for their World Cup send-off against Jamaica on Sunday.
“We had stepped up his level of work this week and it was in a training session this morning, before even he could join team training, which involved him running and stepping up his routine that he pulled up with a sharp pain in his back,” France coach Didier Deschamps told a press conference.
“We had him undergo examinations which unfortunately confirmed that he had aggravated his back problem and there was no question of him being able to either train nor play.”
The 31-year-old’s withdrawal deprives France of their prime attacking focal point, who a year ago cemented his position as one of world football’s top talents.
He was instrumental in leading Bayern Munich to five titles in 2013, including a treble of Champions League and a domestic league and cup double.
France, who depart for Brazil on Monday, also suffered a second injury blow on Friday as midfielder Clement Grenier was ruled out with a thigh problem.
Deschamps called up Montpellier attacking midfielder Remy Cabella and Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin to replace Ribery and Grenier.
Ribery’s withdrawal leaves France sweating on the fitness of striker Karim Benzema.
The 26-year-old aggravated a groin injury by playing in Real Madrid’s Champions League win over Atletico Madrid last month but insisted he would be fit for the World Cup.
“I am going to work to be the best. I feel good physically and mentally,” he told Madrid daily Marca.
France, who face Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E, were not the only team struggling with injury concerns.
Colombia have already seen talismanic striker Radamel Falcao ruled out of the tournament after he lost his battle to recover from a serious knee injury.
Falcao, who has scored 20 goals in 51 international appearances, suffered knee ligament damage in a French Cup tie in January and has not played since.
Ribery’s withdrawal meanwhile will have sent a shiver down the spine of Portugal coach Paulo Bento, who is nervously monitoring the fitness of his superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, 29, has been ruled out of his country’s friendly with Mexico in the United States on Friday and is battling to be ready for Portugal’s opening World Cup battle with Germany on June 16.
The Germany clash in Salvador could play a pivotal role in shaping the outcome of Group G, which also contains Ghana and the United States.
“The situation is evolving and our expectations are evolving constantly,” Bento said.
Spain too have been waiting on the fitness of champions Atletico Madrid’s Brazil-born striker Diego Costa, who is battling an ongoing hamstring problem that forced him off in the early stages of last month’s Champions League final.
England meanwhile also have injury concerns, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limping out of Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Ecuador with a knee ligament strain.
The injury has left the Arsenal star struggling to be fit for England’s June 14 Group D meeting with Italy in Manaus.