The Injury Cost of Major Football Tournaments

football player lying injuredWith Euro 2020 currently in process, there are, like in every tournament, a number of teams who inevitably have injuries to key players, who would, under normal circumstances, have usually made the squad.

England for example had Liverpool defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez ruled out prior to the tournament starting, while they have risked keeping fellow Red Jordan Henderson and Manchester United centre back Harry Maguire in the squad.

Of course, there are other examples of players who have missed out for other teams in the tournament, with the Netherlands missing star centre back and another Liverpool player; Virgil van Dijk.

It got us thinking though – have there been any major cases of injuries at international tournaments and how much of an effect have these had? Let’s take a look at some examples below!

Wayne Rooney: World Cup 2006

With just one month to go before the tournament in Germany, the then Manchester United forward’s metatarsal was injured by Chelsea’s Paulo Ferreira, which for intents and purposes, ruled him out of the tournament. Doing everything that he could to get fit, he was selected in the squad, however, with zero goals and an infamous red card against Portugal in four appearances, he was not the tournament player that he was two years earlier.

Zinedine Zidane: World Cup 2002

The Real Madrid midfield maestro was billed as one of the best hopes for a star-studded France team, returning to defend their title. However, a thigh muscle injury prevented the player from featuring in his country’s first two group matches which included a shock loss to Senegal and an uninspiring stalemate against Uruguay. Despite returning for the last group match against Denmark, this was not enough to prevent Les Bleus from crashing out.

Steven Gerrard: World Cup 2002

Billed as the big hope for England in South Korea and Japan, the Liverpool player had dispatched in the 5-1 qualifying win over Germany previously, though succumbed to a groin injury in the Reds’ final match of the domestic season against Ipswich. Despite this, England still put in a good performance and were agonisingly eliminated in the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil.

Romario: World Cup 1998

People often think of ‘Ronaldo’ or ‘Rivaldo’ when casting their minds back to Brazil strikers of yesteryear, though there was no doubting the ability of Romario. Having won the Golden Ball at World Cup 1994 when Brazil won the tournament, a muscular injury kept him out of the squad in 1998 as Selecao were beaten 3-0 by France in the final.

David Beckham: World Cup 2010

After a few years in the wilderness, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star had returned to the Three Lions side to become a vital player, after putting in some good performances for then current side AC Milan. He looked a strong contender to be selected for the squad in South Africa, until a Serie A game against Chievo put him on the treatment table for six months, denying him a fourth World Cup selection in the process.

Franck Ribery: World Cup 2014

One of France’s big hopes for the tournament in Brazil, Ribery had spent the previous few seasons lighting up the pitch for Bayern Munich and finished third in the Ballon d’OR earlier that year. One week before the tournament started, the 31-year-old injured his back in training, ruling him out, and following Les Bleus’ quarter-final exit, he announced his international football retirement.

Radamel Falcao: World Cup 2014

Arguably one of the most devastating centre forwards in world football at the time, Falcao sustained an injury in the January and his chances of making the Colombia squad were always going to be slim. However, although they did well to reach the quarter-finals, with Falcao featuring, there is every chance that further advancement would have been a strong possibility.

Frank Lampard: Euro 2012

The Chelsea midfielder was still at the peak of his powers during the 2011/12 season having just lifted both the Champions League and FA Cup, however, a devastating thigh injury, while in training for England, ruled him out of the tournament where the Three Lions did little to inspire.

David Villa: Euro 2012

Despite convincingly winning the tournament, Spain were still hampered by injury to one of their stars, after Barcelona forward Villa broke his leg midway through the 2011/12 season. This, though, did not appear to have much negative effect as Spain effectively utilised three ‘false 9s’ to much success.

Effects Of Pre-Tournament Injuries

football player injured

It can certainly be a big blow for teams who have to go to tournaments without star players and this in many ways has a number of effects. Not least of all in the odds that bookmakers give them prior to the tournament; however, this might also reflect good value, especially if their replacement is somewhat of an unknown quantity, despite being blessed with talent.

There is no doubt that injuries to players at tournaments has opened the door for lesser-known players to showcase their talent, and this is often seen as one of the major benefits.

In 2014, when Falcao was ruled out, the door was opened up to Jackson Martinez of FC Porto, who subsequently put in a good account for himself. The same tournament presented an opportunity to a young Antoine Griezmann when Ribery was ruled out for France and he played a major role as deputy.

When Villa was ruled out of Euro 2012, we discovered a new role for Cesc Fabregas, who featured a number of times through the middle, as a ‘false 9’, demonstrating another element to his game as well as the ingenuity of this talented Spain squad.

Player Psychology

sports psychologyThis certainly raises an interesting question, especially for players who are considered to be on the fringe of being chosen for their country to go to international tournaments. While they still know that they have to impress, there is always the chance that they could get injured, so do they put themselves on the line as much?

Then you have to consider that a player might be at a club that is competing for major honours, though may have their country in the back of their mind as well. Does an element of complacency also start to creep in which then leads to a lapse in concentration and ultimately a costly injury?

Something as simple as over-extending for a ball that was a needless attempt anyway, could well lead to an injury that rules a player out of a tournament.

On the flip side, this could also be the case while playing at major tournaments. Are players more cautious because they want to feature regularly again for their club next season – especially if it is a country that is considered outside favourites anyway? Then you have to factor in players who might be trying to earn themselves a move to a major club and then using the global platform to showcase their talents. How does this affect their psychology?

Even the best mentality cannot prevent you from sustaining an injury and it is often the case that players get caught up in the moment and attempt an action that was always going to end badly. Ultimately, some players are often just luckier than others.

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