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  • Metatarsal fractures have consigned Neuer to the sidelines
  • Played his last Bayern game in September 2017, most recent international in November 2016
  • Now in a race against time to be fit for Russia

Manuel Neuer established himself as the embodiment of the modern goalkeeper at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. While he was by no means the first shot stopper capable of creating something with the ball at his feet and his exceptional skill was already beyond doubt to football fans across Germany, his courageous displays in South America four years ago captivated audiences around the world. He was ultimately rewarded with the World Cup Trophy and the adidas Golden Glove as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

Although it may have escaped the notice of some fans around the globe, many in Germany have been preoccupied by the fact that Neuer has been injured for more than a year with two successive metatarsal fractures. The most recent of his four appearances this season was in mid-September, while he was last capped for his country in November 2016.

The road to recovery is proving to be a difficult one. “It’s really important that nothing happens to my foot now, otherwise it could put my career at risk,” he said back in March, before providing a further update in April: “There are still plenty of question marks. I have to be happy with my performance and be honest with myself. Can I hold my own again after such a long absence?”

The 32-year-old has since returned to training. Although there was initially speculation that he would be fit enough to return for Bayern Munich’s penultimate or last Bundesliga match, such estimates proved to be premature. The latest news from the German champions is positive ahead of the DFB Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin on Saturday, with the club confirming on Friday that Neuer will be included in the matchday squad.

But what does all this mean for his place in the national team at Russia 2018? Although national coach Joachim Low included his captain Neuer as one of four goalkeepers when announcing his provisional squad on Tuesday, he made it clear that he would only take three of them to this summer’s World Cup finals.

“Manuel and I know the responsibility we have,” Low said. “He has already played at four major tournaments and knows what a goalkeeper needs. We will give him time and hope he will be able to come.”


© Getty Images

There is a Plan B, of course, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen now Germany’s clear number two goalkeeper behind Neuer after an impressive FIFA Confederations Cup last summer. There are certainly worse backup plans than having Barcelona’s 26-year-old starting custodian ready to step into the breach, especially as Ter Stegen shares much of Neuer’s attacking mindset and is currently one of the world’s best goalkeepers in his own right.

Despite this, Low’s assertion on Tuesday that “nobody can go to a tournament like this without game time” came as something of a surprise. Will a cup final and/or the international friendly against Austria on 2 June be enough game time for a World Cup, or is the national coach gently preparing the country for the news that Neuer will not make the plane? 

“We’re being very frank with each other,” Low said. “[After the South Tyrol training camp] we’ll talk openly and honestly about whether he can play at the World Cup or not, and make a final decision on 4 June.”

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The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ is drawing ever nearer – with just 27 days to go! Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will take a closer look at a different statistic from the history of the tournament each day.

27 – With their exceptional individual skill and outstanding team play, this generation of Hungarian footballers were unsurprisingly known as the ‘Golden Team’ or the ‘Mighty Magyars’. Most of the side also played their club football for Honved in Budapest, which meant they could string together passes and find each other effortlessly when representing the national team. The legendary names of Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti and, above all, Ferenc Puskas, have been etched permanently in the history books of Hungarian and world football.

Their near-telepathic ability meant they scored a total of 27 goals at the 1954 FIFA World Cup™, the most by a team at a single World Cup tournament. It makes the achievement of West Germany in the Switzerland 1954 Final all the more remarkable, as they denied the Mighty Magyars the ultimate glory with a shock 3-2 victory.

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– FIFA on GBP Sports

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ is drawing ever nearer – with just 27 days to go! Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will take a closer look at a different statistic from the history of the tournament each day.

27 – With their exceptional individual skill and outstanding team play, this generation of Hungarian footballers were unsurprisingly known as the ‘Golden Team’ or the ‘Mighty Magyars’. Most of the side also played their club football for Honved in Budapest, which meant they could string together passes and find each other effortlessly when representing the national team. The legendary names of Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti and, above all, Ferenc Puskas, have been etched permanently in the history books of Hungarian and world football.

Their near-telepathic ability meant they scored a total of 27 goals at the 1954 FIFA World Cup™, the most by a team at a single World Cup tournament. It makes the achievement of West Germany in the Switzerland 1954 Final all the more remarkable, as they denied the Mighty Magyars the ultimate glory with a shock 3-2 victory.

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Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is closer to finalising his 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ roster after announcing a 28-man squad to participate in their upcoming camp and friendly matches.

Saudi Arabia will meet Italy, Peru and Germany in international outings ahead of Russia 2018.

The Green Falcons will feature in the World Cup’s Opening Match against the hosts on 14 June, before further Group A outings against Uruguay on 20 June and Egypt on 25 June.

All squads are provisional until the final list of 23 players is announced by FIFA, following their submission by participating teams, on 4 June.

Saudi Arabia squad  
Goalkeepers: Assaf Al-Qarny, Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Musailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf.

Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Saeed Al-Mowalad, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulaihi.

Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassim, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Mohammed Al-Kwikbi, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri.

Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.

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France head coach Didier Deschamps has named a 23-man provisional squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, with a few players with little international experience making the cut after successful seasons with their clubs.

The notable inclusions are Steven Nzonzi (two caps), Florian Thauvin (three caps) and Nabil Fekir (ten caps), who all put in impressive displays this season for Sevilla, Marseille and Lyon, respectively.

The most notable omissions were Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Kingsley Coman and Adrien Rabiot, who form part of a 11-player reserve list.

France will prepare for Russia 2018 with three warm-up games against Republic of Ireland on 28 May in Paris, Italy on 1 June in Nice and USA on 9 June in Lyon.

France’s match schedule at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

France provisional squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain);

Defenders: Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart/Germany), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona/Spain), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/Spain), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Adil Rami (Marseille), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City/England), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid/Spain);

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United/England), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich/Germany), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus/Italy), Ngolo Kante (Chelsea/England), Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla/Spain);

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea/England), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona/Spain), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco);

On standby: Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla/Spain), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/Germany), Benoit Costil (Bordeaux), Mathieu Debuchy (Saint-Etienne), Lucas Digne (Barcelona/Spain), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal/England), Anthony Martial (Manchester United/England), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace/England), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea/England).

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Morocco coach Herve Renard announced a provisional list of 23 players and three reserves that will make up the North African team, who return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998.

The team will begin their preparation in Rabat on 24 May before taking part in three warm-up matches prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Renard’s Atlas Lions will play Ukraine on 31 May and Slovakia on 4 June (both games in Geneva) before taking on Estonia in Tallinn on 9 June.

Morocco’s match schedule at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

All squads are provisional until the final list of 23 players is announced by FIFA, following their submission by participating teams, on 4 June.

Morocco provisional squad

Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia, Spain), Yassine Bounou (Girona, Spain), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger);

Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus, Italy), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir, Turkey), Badr Benoun (Raja Casablanca), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid, Spain), Hamza Mendyl (Lille, France);

Midfielders: M’bark Boussoufa (Al Jazira, UAE), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, Netherlands), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen, France), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord, Netherlands), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray, Turkey), Faycal Fajr (Getafe, Spain), Amine Harit (Schalke, Germany);

Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor, Turkey), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli, Germany), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes, Spain), Mehdi Carcela (Standard de Liege, Belgium), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax, Netherlands).

Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse also announced his provisional squad on Thursday, with Liverpool star Sadio Mane and Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly headlining the Lions of Teranga list.

Senegal are returning to the World Cup for the first time since 2002, when they made it to the quarter-finals.

Cisse’s team will prepare for the World Cup with two friendlies, first again Luxembourg on 31 May followed by a warm-up game against fellow World Cup-bound side 
Croatia on 8 June in Zagreb.

Senegal’s match schedule at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Senegal provisional squad

Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes, France), Alfred Gomis (SPAL, Italy), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya, Guinea);

Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes, France), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, Italy), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht, Belgium), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux, France), Salif Sane (Hannover, Germany), Moussa Wague (Eupen, Belgium);

Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton, England), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United, England), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City, England), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City, England), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes, France);

Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco, France), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City, England), Moussa Konate (Amiens, France), Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England), Mbaye Niang (Torino, Italy), Diafra Sakho (Rennes, France), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor, Turkey).

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