World Cup of hurt: A look at standouts stung by injury

There are enough injured players sitting out of the World Cup to assemble a dream team lineup

The sport known as football almost everywhere beyond our borders bears few similarities to the USA's heavily padded version. Here is one timely likeness: The roll call of ailing players scratched from the tournament is long enough to resemble the NFL injured reserve list.

Let's rechristen this World Cup the World of Hurt. In fantasyland, a lineup of inactive luminaries could be assembled that, if miraculously healed by Thursday's opening match and run through a token practice, could contend for the title.

At striker, Colombia's Radamel Falcao, Costa Rica's Alvaro Saborio and Belgium's Christian Benteke.

At wing, France's Franck Ribery and England's Theo Walcott.

At midfield, take your pick among Russia's Roman Shirokov, Germany's Marcus Reus, the Netherlands' Kevin Strootman or Rafael van der Vaart, Italy's Riccardo Montolivo, Germany's Ilkay Gundogan or  Mexico's Luis Montes.

On the back line, Germany's Holger Badstuber, England's Kyle Walker and Nigeria's Elderson Echiejile.

No prominent goalkeeper qualifies. But with this gifted group, who needs one?

It's no secret why the casualty count is higher. For elite players, the season can stretch to 11 months for league games (domestic and Champions) plus assorted cup tournaments and exhibition tours. Tired bodies beget breaks and pains.

It's high time soccer's rulers figure out a way to provide national team players some R&R leading up to the Cup. There are reasons aplenty to emulate the NFL. An injury epidemic is not one of them.

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