France star Franck Ribery was ruled out of the World Cup as fears of burnout mounted over a lengthening list of players who will miss the tournament through injury.
Ribery’s withdrawal came after the Bayern Munich winger pulled up in pain with a back injury at France’s Clairefontaine training camp on the outskirts of Paris.
France manager Didier Deschamps confirmed the 31-year-old would miss the tournament along with Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, who had been nursing a thigh injury.
“We had stepped up (Ribery’s) 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,” Deschamps said.
“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.”
Ribery’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.
Later Friday, Germany were also given a huge fright when midfielder Marco Reus hobbled out of his team’s 6-1 drubbing of Armenia in Mainz.
The Borussia Dortmund star — a certain starter in the German line-up — limped off in agony after the injury.
“I don’t know yet what it is, we have to wait,” said concerned Germany coach Joachim Loew.
“You could see the foot was swollen and I hope it’s not a ligament (injury).”
With Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo also struggling to be fit in time for his country’s Group G opener with the Germans on June 16, coach Paulo Bento reflected on the toll that a gruelling European season takes on the sport’s top players.
Even though Ribery and Reus play in the Bundesliga, which allows players a substantial mid-season break, Bento questioned whether the physical demands placed on footballers was now too great.
“For a few years it’s normal that players arrive at the World Cup or European Championships tired — physically and emotionally — because they have long, long seasons, mainly in Europe,” Bento said.
“Things are not getting any better. The players are being forced to play more matches and recovery time is getting less and less.
“I don’t think we (the football authorities) are going in the right direction.”
France and Germany were not the only teams struggling with injury concerns on Friday.
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.
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.
There was better news for Chile however who had been fretting over a shoulder injury suffered by Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez.
Scans revealed only a moderate inflammation and Chile officials said they expected the forward to line up for the team’s opening Group G game on Friday.