We are now just days away from curtain up in Brazil. The players are all making final preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but for some those plans have altered radically in the last couple of days.

Montolivo Misses Out

Injuries are part of the game. They never occur at a good time, but there’s surely no worse time than in the lead up to a World Cup. Italian midfielder Riccardo Montolivo has suffered the cruellest fate, breaking his leg in a warm-up game.

You have to feel for a player who will be 33 by the time of the next World Cup. Montolivo was part of the 2010 Azzurri team which limped out of the competition after failing to win a game and was also part of the Italian side that was overrun by Spain in the Euro 2012 Final.

Luis Montes also done

Montolivo is by no means the only player missing through injury. Mexico midfielder Luis Montes’ dream of playing at the World Cup has also been shattered. Minutes after scoring in a friendly game against Ecuador, Montes also fractured his leg and, like Montolivo, will watch the World Cup on TV.  

The list of absentees is growing almost by the day. Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, Costa Rica striker Alvaro Saborio and Croatian star Nico Kranjcar have all fallen victim to the injury curse within the last week

Will they make it?

In addition there are several major stars on the questionable list:

  • Spain’s big hope Diego Costa is desperately trying to prove his fitness after tearing a hamstring which led to his early substitution in the recent UEFA Champions League Final.
  • Uruguay’s top scorer Luis Suarez is rehabbing from a minor knee operation and has yet to resume training with the national squad.
  • The French are sweating on the fitness of midfield maestro Franck Ribery — his back is causing increasing concern for Les Bleus.
  • Netherlands midfielder Jonathan De Guzman is also in doubt. The Canadian-born player, selected for his first World Cup, hurt his hamstring in training and will miss the upcoming Dutch friendly against Wales. 

The Ivory Coast is hoping brotherly love will aid its cause. Defender Kolo Toure is planning to play alongside his brother Yaya in Brazil — but he’s recovering from a bout of malaria, which he originally contracted six years ago. In 2008 he spent time being treated in an Austrian hospital.

Friendly Fever

All 32 competing nations are fine-tuning their game with a series of exhibition matches. The much-fancied Germans were forced to settle for a 2-2 tie with Cameroon, while France could only draw with Paraguay on home soil.

It was more encouraging for Belgium’s "Golden Generation" — 2-0 winners over Sweden — while the U.S. didn't appear to miss Landon Donovan as Clint Dempsey and Fabian Johnson found the net in the Americans’ 2-1 win over Turkey.