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The World Cup Will Suffer

It looks like the captain of the Ivory Coast Didier Drogba will join Rio Ferdinand and Michael Ballack, the respected captains of England and Germany, in missing out on the 2010 World Cup through injury.

The biggest stage in football and three of its biggest names will not be appearing. Although all three are connected by virtue of playing in the English Premiership this is not the reason for their collective absence. Michael Ballack was injured in the FA Cup final, Didier Drogba in a pre-tournament friendly and Rio Ferdinand in a training session. What does connect the three is that they are all irreplaceable in their respective teams.

Drogba is not only a revered leader, peace negotiator (he persuaded the warring parties in the Ivory Coast to put down their arms after his team qualified for the World Cup in 2006) and national hero but he is also a phenomenal striker. His replacement in the team will probably be Gervinho, a capable player in his own right, but not yet anything close to Drogba.

Rio Ferdinand is a Champions League winning captain and the most assured of English defenders. Incredible at the last tournament in 2006, Ferdinand is the only English defender with notable pace. Ledley King, his replacement, is neither as experienced, composed or as quick.

Michael Ballack, seen for a large part of the last decade as the only genuine world class midfielder in the German ranks, is the experienced figurehead and focal point of the team. There is no direct replacement and Joachim Low, the German coach, has admitted as much.

That the trio might be absent is not only a shame for the Ivory Coast, England and Germany but for all fans of football.
These three countries, who each had realistic hopes of reaching the latter stages of the competition, are now weakened but it is the actual tournament that has lost and will suffer the most.