Pogba is out after a setback


Paul Pogba, a longtime star for France, is set to miss the 2022 World Cup through injury. (Daniel Mihailescu/Pool Photo via AP)

Raphaël Varane pulled his Manchester United shirt over his roaring face last Saturday and desperately hobbled down a tunnel. He had just injured his knee in a Premier League game. He felt physical pain and intense frustration. But another source of his tears and others this fall was likely the World Cup, which starts in less than a month – and which he feared could start without him.

The final diagnosis gave hope: Varane falls out until the World Cup, but not necessarily for the whole. However, a few French teammates were less fortunate. N’Golo Kante has already been ruled out. And now Paul Pogba has joined him. Pogba reportedly suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery. On Monday his agent Rafaela Pimienta confirmed to the French broadcaster Téléfoot that Pogba will miss the World Cup.

She and a handful of others were finished off by the unprecedented timing of this World Cup. Forced out of its traditional summer window by the menacing heat of Qatar, it begins just a week after the European club season paused rather than a month after it ended.

His looming presence on the calendars coupled with the ever-present threat of injury has stuck in players’ minds. “Of course you try everything to avoid injury,” said US midfielder Weston McKennie in September. “But I don’t think anyone here will be less aggressive or play it safe when we’re with our club sides.” They have no choice but to go full blast, often twice a week, as the tournament approaches.

And of course some have suffered – including McKennie who injured his quad on October 29th and is facing a race against time to be fit for the Americans’ opener on November 21st.

Below is a partial list of the most notable players ruled out or doubtful for the 2022 World Cup. It will be updated as the roster deadline (November 14) and launch date (November 20) approaches.

Players who will miss the World Cup through injury

N’Golo Kante, France — The superhuman midfielder tore his Achilles tendon in August and then aggravated the injury after returning to training in October. He underwent surgery and will be out for 3-4 months.

Paul Pogba, France — France’s midfield maestro suffered a meniscus injury in July. He initially decided against surgery, but later, in consultation with doctors, realized he needed it. As of mid-October he seemed on track to recover just in time for Qatar but his rehab was reportedly put on hold by a muscle injury. With doubts arising, his agent ended any remaining hopes of a miraculous return.

Georginio Wijnaldum, The Netherlands — Wijnaldum broke his shin in August, leaving a hole in Dutch midfield.

Diogo Jota, Portugal – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed on October 18 that Jota, who may have started in Qatar for Portugal, will miss the World Cup after picking up a calf injury in stoppage time against Man City.

Pedro Neto, Portugal – The Wolves winger injured his ankle in early October.

Boubacar Kamara, France — Karmara would have been a potential Kante replacement for France. But one A ligament injury in his knee has ruled him out of the World Cup.

Miles Robinson, USA — Robinson had established himself as a starting central defender for the USA. Then in May he tore his Achilles tendon.

Injured players who are doubtful for the World Cup

Raphael Varane, France — The diagnosis was a hamstring injury, which Varane will sideline for 3-4 weeks. And it will leave France coach Didier Deschamps with a very difficult choice. If fit, Varane could start at centre-back. But that’s a big “if” now.

Reece James, England – James, who would likely have started at right-back for England, injured his knee playing for Chelsea in October and will be out for around two months. His club manager Graham Potter hasn’t ruled him out of the World Cup for good, but James will almost certainly not be in Qatar.

Kyle Walker, England — Walker, another of England’s many right-back defenders, had groin surgery in early October. He hopes to be fit by the end of November but is in a race against time.

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Mexico – Tecatito broke his leg in training with Sevilla in August. Most assumed he would miss Qatar. but El Tri gives hope: Manager Tata Martino included Corona in a provisional squad with 31 players at the end of October.

Sardar Azmoun, Iran – Bayer Leverkusen said Azmoun, one of Iran’s star strikers, “is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks” after tearing a calf muscle on October 4 have rehabilitated in Dubai. His World Cup status is uncertain.

Ronald Araujo, Uruguay – The Barcelona defender is considered doubtful after tearing a thigh muscle while playing for Uruguay on September 23. The following week he underwent surgery in Finland. He is expected to be out until the New Year but neither club nor country have given a concrete timeline.

Pepe, Portugal — The 39-year-old centre-back was still a potential starter for Portugal despite his age. But he is out with a sprained knee and a timely recovery for Qatar looks increasingly unlikely.

This page will be updated with more injury news over the coming month.

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