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Jun 5, 2014

Absentee XI: Injured stars out of Brazil

ESPN FC's Injured World Cup XI, courtesy of WhoScored.com.

Somewhat surprisingly, it's the potential absentees from the World Cup who seem to be taking the limelight right now. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain recently suffered an injury that could see him out of action during the tournament, while Franck Ribery is the latest high-profile star certain to miss out.

Meanwhile, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Diego Costa are all entering the tournament with injury problems. Perhaps then Antonio Valencia's overexuberant reaction to a poorly timed Raheem Sterling tackle in the recent friendly between England and Ecuador was a little more understandable. Italy's Riccardo Montolivo and Mexico's Luis Montes have both broken bones in recent warm-up matches, after all.

Here, WhoScored.com looks at some of the biggest stars who have missed out on their chance to play at the 2014 World Cup because of injury.

The most notable goalkeeper absent through injury is Barcelona's Victor Valdes, though the 32-year-old has played second fiddle to Spain skipper Iker Casillas for his entire international career. There's little doubt that the Barca man's hopes would have risen since his compatriot fell out of favour at Real Madrid, and with a WhoScored.com rating of 6.93 in La Liga this season, Valdes statistically outperformed understudies Pepe Reina and David De Gea.

There are probably fewer defenders set to be absent through injury than any other position, but full-backs Bryan Oviedo (7.38) and Gregory van der Wiel (7.13) certainly stand out. You have to look to the likes of Middlesbrough's Rhys Williams (7.03) to find a sidelined centre-back, with the Australian missing out through injury for the second successive World Cup. His absence is certainly a loss to the Socceroos, given his capability of playing across a number of positions, with eight of his 22 league starts coming at right-back last season.

Oviedo would have hoped to test himself against England for Costa Rica after an impressive if short run in the Everton team before suffering a leg break. He scored twice and picked up two assists in just eight league starts for the Toffees, while his crossing, key passes and tackling stats were also impressive. Van der Wiel, meanwhile, proved an equally creative outlet from the back for PSG, particularly in the Champions League -- registering four assists in just six appearances in the tournament.

When it comes to midfielders, however, there's a plethora of talent sidelined. So much so that the recently crocked Montolivo doesn't even make our injured XI, despite an impressive rating of 7.28. Lars Bender (7.32) was cut from the Germany squad due to a thigh problem, having made the second-most tackles per game in the Bundesliga last season (3.7). Elsewhere in Germany's top tier, Thiago Alcantara (7.84) suffered a knee injury just as he was beginning to shine for champions Bayern Munich. The Spaniard averaged four dribbles per game in the league and completed 91.6 percent of his pass attempts.

Perhaps the biggest loss in this area, however, could be that of Kevin Strootman for the Netherlands. Manchester United-bound Louis van Gaal was beginning to mould his side around the Roma man, who made the step up in standard to Serie A football with consummate ease to earn a WhoScored.com rating of 7.38. The Dutchman scored five goals and picked up six assists, while also registering a team high of 3.3 tackles per game. He's your archetypal box-to-box midfielder.

On the flanks, England's options were certainly affected due to an injury to Theo Walcott (7.14), while a longstanding back problem has forced Didier Deschamps to cut star man Franck Ribery from his squad. The former was only fit enough to make 13 league appearances for Arsenal last season, but in contributing to nine goals (five goals, four assists) he was in impressive form.

Ribery, meanwhile, is the top-rated player in our injured XI (8.24), having garnered the highest average in Germany's top tier despite a fragmented campaign due to injury. In just 22 league appearances, of which only 18 were starts, the French flyer registered double figures for both goals and assists (10 apiece) and completed the most dribbles per game (5.5)

Up front, Christian Benteke's dreams of leading an emerging Belgium side through the tournament were curtailed by an Achilles tendon rupture earlier in the year. The Villa man was struggling to recreate the form of his debut season at the club, but had still scored 10 goals in 24 league starts, as well as winning a league high of 8.8 aerial duels per game to earn a WhoScored.com rating of 7.25.

Radamel Falcao is officially out of the 2014 World Cup, after Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman announced his 23-man squad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Saving the biggest name for last, Colombia will be without Monaco's Radamel Falcao. But although they will be a less intimidating prospect without El Tigre, the quality in their attacking ranks should still be feared. Falcao, nevertheless, is Colombia's all-time top scorer and the face of the national side. He earned a relatively modest rating of 6.92 from WhoScored.com last season, having not set Ligue 1 alight as he might have liked, despite notching nine times in just 16 league starts.