France’s World Cup ambitions were dealt a significant blow when winger Franck Ribery failed to overcome a back injury and was ruled out of the squad on Friday.
Coach Didier Deschamps hoped Ribery would play a part in the friendly against Jamaica on Sunday, but the Bayern Munich winger was replaced by Montpellier winger Remy Cabella. Cabella was on the reserve list and has made just one substitute appearance for France.
In another setback for Deschamps, attacking midfielder Clement Grenier was also withdrawn with a recurrence of a groin injury that has hampered him all season for Lyon. “We have to remain ambitious,” Deschamps said. “Obviously with Ribery at 100 percent we’re a better team, but we’ll try and be a good team without him.”
The 23-year-old Grenier tore his right groin in training on Thursday and has been replaced by Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin, who has never played for France.
The 31-year-old Ribery missed the previous two friendlies — a 4-0 win against Norway and a 1-1 draw against Paraguay on Sunday — but Deschamps was optimistic he would recover in time to play against Jamaica. Ribery had shown “positive signs of improvement” this week after increasing “the intensity of his work,” Deschamps said.
But that was when Ribery was training alone, and when he stepped up his routine in a bid to be ready to join in with his teammates, he suddenly pulled up in pain on Friday.
“Franck had felt a lot better but his situation got much worse as we started to try and get him to take part in collective training,” Deschamps said. “He is unable to train for a few weeks now and even less so to play.”
His final appearance of the season for Bayern was as a substitute in the German Cup final win against Borussia Dortmund on May 17. He had been rested since the 4-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the return leg of their Champions League semifinal on April 29.
Ribery has 16 goals in 81 appearances for France and is the team’s best attacking player. That mantle now rests with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
It is a particularly bitter blow for Ribery considering how he had turned public opinion back in his favor, following a spectacular fall from grace at the last World Cup in 2010, when he was perceived to be a ringleader of France’s infamous training ground strike and banned for three matches by the French Football Federation.
Deschamps must wait for FIFA’s medical officers to validate his request to include Cabella and Schneiderlin in his World Cup list. They were set to join up with the squad at the Clairefontaine training camp late Friday.
Ronaldo to miss friendly Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo, suffering from tendinosis and a thigh injury, was set to miss Portugal’s friendly against Mexico late on Friday and coach Paulo Bento gave no clues as to when the World Player of the Year would be fully fit. “I don’t know when we will be able to use him. That’s what I said last Friday. When there is something different to what I said before, we will say so,” Bento told reporters.
Ronaldo has yet to take part in a full training session with his team mates since joining the Portugal camp one week ago and also missed last Saturday’s friendly with Greece.
Setback to England
In Miami, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in a race to be fit for England’s World Cup opener against Italy after being injured in the team’s penultimate warmup match. The Arsenal midfielder’s right knee was hurt in a challenge by Carlos Gruezo in the second half of a 2-2 draw against Ecuador in Miami Gardens on Wednesday.
After undergoing scans on Thursday, the English Football Association confirmed he injured a medial knee ligament. “It’s too early to make any decisions about what happens next — it is only 24 hours since the match so we have to wait and see,” England coach Roy Hodgson said.
Van Persie fit
Meanwhile, Netherlands captain Robin van Persie has declared himself 100 percent fit for the World Cup as the Dutch national side arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Friday for the June 12-July 13 tournament. The Manchester United striker was withdrawn at half-time of his country’s final warm-up game against Wales in Amsterdam on Wednesday with a groin issue but insisted it was only as a precautionary measure after he felt some discomfort.
Van Persie added that he had also fully recovered from the knee injury which kept him out action for two months towards the end of the Premier League season.
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