Germany's Manuel Neuer in race to be fit for World Cup 2018

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The clock is ticking down for Manuel Neuer to return from a fractured foot, but the Germany camp is hopeful he will be ready for their World Cup defence.

Germany host Spain on Friday in Duesseldorf and Brazil in Berlin next Tuesday in high-profile friendlies, but will again be without their captain and goalkeeper.

In the 31-year-old’s absence, Barcelona‘s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno will be vying for Germany’s number one shirt.

Neuer has not played since fracturing his foot last September – the second time he suffered the same injury in 2017.

His club Bayern Munich have not set a date for his return, but the countdown is on before Germany announce their World Cup squad on May 15.

“There is no pressure from our side, it’s a decision for him and the doctors,” said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff on Wednesday.

“Of course, we hope he will be 100 percent ready and fit by the time we nominate (the World Cup squad).”

Neuer has not played for Germany since October 2016, and the defending world champions are desperate for him to be ready for their opening World Cup match against Mexico in Moscow on June 17.

Neuer was voted the world’s best goalkeeper for four years running up until 2016.

Manuel Neuer 2

His six-month absence and lack of match practice is a cause for worry in football-mad Germany.

Thomas Mueller understands the concern but is backing his Germany and Bayern team-mate to get fit.

“I see ‘Manu’ a bit more than most and he always give the impression that everything is okay,” said Mueller.

“I am not privy to what the medical situation is, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest things aren’t going to plan.

“He’ll take the necessary time, and from what I know of ‘Manu’, you can never write him off.

“The discussion as to whether Neuer will be fit for the World Cup is understandable, but I think he’ll manage it.”

The Spain and Brazil games are Germany’s final friendlies before the World Cup squad is picked, but warm-up matches are planned against Austria and Saudi Arabia on June 2 and 8 respectively.

Four years ago, a shoulder injury also hampered Neuer’s preparation before the last World Cup.

But Bierhoff admits the long absence this time around is new territory for Neuer.

“I don’t see it as a problem, the work-load on his foot will be gradually built up,” said Bierhoff.

“What is different from 2014, of course, is a lack of match practice.

“But I still think that during intense training sessions, a world-class goalkeeper comes relatively quickly back into his rhythm.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Sweden considering diplomatic snub of 2018 World Cup

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Many countries are considering not sending officials to Russia.

The diplomatic snub of Russia’s World Cup gathered steam Tuesday as four countries said they were either not sending officials in support of Britain’s partial boycott or considering the move.

London last week said British ministers and royals would not attend the showpiece in protest over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.

The Skripals survived the nerve agent attack but remain in critical condition.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government had found that Russia was “culpable” of the attack – a charge Moscow angrily denies.

England is still expected to send its team and none of the 31 nations that qualified alongside the host have said they would not do so.

But Polish President Andrzej Duda’s office said he will be skipping the tournament’s opening ceremony on June 14 in Moscow.

“Yesterday, the president made the decision not to participate as a representative of Poland at the World Cup in Russia,” presidential chief of staff Krzysztof Szczerski told RMF FM radio.

Less than 100 days remain to the global event.

Less than 100 days remain to the global event.

Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV said the foreign ministry was consulting with its “allies” about a joint diplomatic boycott.

RUV said this possibly referred to Sweden and Denmark because they too are playing in Russia.

“The Icelandic government has not made any decisions on possible measures in the wake of the attack but will continue to elaborate and consult with its closest neighbours and allies,” the foreign ministry said in a separate statement.

Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Per Enerud told AFP on Monday “this is one of many ideas we are looking at”.

The Danish foreign ministry also told AFP that the punitive step was under discussion but that no final decision had been reached.

Skripal’s poisoning with a secret Soviet nerve agent designed specifically for assassinations has sparked an increasingly hostile war of words between Moscow and London.

The United States joined Germany and France in voicing support for Britain’s position and blaming Russia for the attack.

The Time of London reported on March 10 that UK officials were talking to the US and European allies about a co-ordinated retaliation that could involve a World Cup boycott.

Dignitaries usually attend the opening ceremony and sometimes their country’s big matches.

Russian officials reacted to reports of more nations possibly joining Britain with a mixture of anger and sarcasm.

“You can only feel sorry for Iceland’s officials – they would have loved to root for their team,” parliament’s sports committee chief Mikhail Degtyarev said.

“It is sad to see Iceland become the fodder of an information and political war against Russia.”

Russia’s World Cup organising committee chief Alexei Sorokin had earlier said the British no-show would have “no impact on the quality of the tournament”.

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England's major injury scares ahead of World Cup as Harry Kane suffers ankle problem

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Harry Kane has become the latest England player to suffer an injury scare ahead of a World Cup.

With the start of Russia 2018 just three months away, Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of the ankle problem Kane suffered during Tottenham‘s 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday.

Here, we look at other important England players who have faced fitness battles in the build up to World Cups.

Ashley Cole (2010)

The Chelsea left-back’s hopes of being on the plane to South Africa were thrown into doubt when he fractured his left ankle in a challenge with Everton forward Landon Donovan in February 2010.

He was ruled out for approximately three months but was back playing 10 weeks later. He featured four times for Chelsea before the end of the season, including the FA Cup final win over Portsmouth, before lining up against Donovan’s United States in England’s opening group game in Rustenburg.

Ashley Cole of Chelsea is injured in a challenge by Landon Donovan of Everton

Wayne Rooney (2006)

After a cracked metatarsal cruelly cut short Rooney’s sensational performances at Euro 2004, he suffered a similar injury exactly six weeks before the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Rooney was playing for Manchester United against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when an innocuous tackle from Paulo Ferreira left him in agony. The then 20-year-old recovered to be named among the substitutes for England’s opener against Paraguay and then played in each of the next four games, including the quarter-final exit to Portugal in which he was sent off.

Wayne Rooney 2

Michael Owen (2006)

Rooney’s injury was even more of a concern given his international strike partner was suffering with a similar issue. Newcastle forward Owen cracked a metatarsal in a collision with Tottenham’s England goalkeeper Paul Robinson during a Premier League match in December 2005.

He played only 29 more minutes for the Magpies that season but went to the World Cup after coming through the international warm-up games unscathed. However, his problems were far from over.

After playing for around an hour in each of England’s opening two games, his miserable luck continued when he sustained an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury in the fourth minute of the final group match against Sweden in Cologne.

Michael Owen 2

David Beckham (2002)

Beckham’s broken foot was possibly the biggest sports injury story this country has ever had. It introduced many to the metatarsal bones, one of which the England captain fractured in a challenge with Aldo Duscher during a Manchester United Champions League game against Deportivo La Coruna.

Newspapers printed life-size cut-outs of the midfielder’s foot and encouraged readers to pray for his recovery, while the player himself slept in an oxygen tent and wore a state-of-the-art surgical boot.

Less than two months after the injury, he started England’s World Cup opener against Sweden and played all five games under Sven-Goran Eriksson, including their quarter-final defeat to Brazil.

David Beckham of Manchester United

Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville (2002)

While Beckham was the big worry in 2002 before eventually recovering, England regulars Gerrard and Neville both missed out. Gerrard memorably scored England’s second goal in the 5-1 win against Germany in Munich during the qualifying campaign, but a groin issue prevented him from travelling to Japan and South Korea. He made 45 appearances for Liverpool during the 2001/02 season before a visit to a specialist revealed he required surgery.

Defender Neville, meanwhile, fractured a metatarsal two weeks after Manchester United team-mate Beckham, paving the way for Danny Mills to take his right-back spot.

Gary Neville

Bryan Robson (1986 and 1990)

Robson won 90 caps for England and it would have been more but for terrible luck with injuries. His World Cup disappointment started just before Mexico ’86 when he dislocated a shoulder in a warm-up game. He travelled to the finals but aggravated the problem in the second game, a goalless draw with Morocco.

He continued to captain the side four years later at Italia ’90. However, Achilles tendon and toe injuries flared up during England’s second group game and he remained sidelined as Bobby Robson’s men suffered penalty shoot-out heartache at the hands of West Germany in the semi-finals.

Bryan Robson

Kevin Keegan (1982)

England’s failure to qualify for the two previous World Cups meant Keegan had to wait until the 1982 tournament in Spain for a chance to play on football’s biggest stage.

The opportunity was ruined by a chronic back problem. He was named in the squad and retained the captain’s armband but was restricted to just 26 minutes on the pitch.

Having been absent for his country’s first four matches, Keegan, aged 31, came on as a second-half substitute against the hosts, a game England needed to win by two goals to progress. They drew 0-0 and Keegan’s World Cup experience was over almost before it had begun.

Kevin Keegan

Jimmy Greaves (1966)

Greaves enjoyed a prolific international career but will have bittersweet memories of England’s only World Cup win. The Spurs player started the tournament as the country’s first-choice striker, only to injure a shin in the final group game.

He was replaced by Sir Geoff Hurst for the knockout stages and, despite being fit for the final, manager Sir Alf Ramsey stuck with a winning team. Hurst wrote his name into the history books with a hat-trick in the 4-2 final win over West Germany, while Greaves did not receive his winner’s medal until 2009.

Jimmy Greaves (L)

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