Ten risky World Cup selections
The 23-man squads are announced. Barring accidents, these will be the players who represent their countries in Brazil. However, each of the 32 sides will contain a player or two whose inclusion raises an eyebrow. Here, ESPN FC selects 10 risky choices.
Erik Durm, DF, Germany
After just one season as a Bundesliga player, Durm has made an exceptionally late surge to replace Borussia Dortmund colleague Marcel Schmelzer for both club and country at left-back; he is also capable of playing as a left-winger, too. So late, in fact, was this surge that his full international debut came in Sunday night's 2-2 draw with Cameroon in his club's own stadium. After a solid performance there is now a high possibility that Durm, the youngest member of Jogi Loew's squad, may even start the tournament. Schmelzer was cut from the squad on Monday and the choice of left-back remains wide open.
Antoine Griezmann, FW, France
Griezmann's selection for France was not much of a surprise, but Didier Deschamps has turned to a player who has never kicked a ball in French league football and only made his debut for Les Bleus in March. His contribution from the left wing to Real Sociedad's adventures in reaching the Champions League brought him to prominence. Though he was actually banned from representing any French national team for 12 months until Dec. 31, 2013, after a curfew-breaking night out with U21 colleagues, he is now free to take his chance in Brazil. Scored his first senior international goal on Sunday against Paraguay.
Memphis Depay, FW, Netherlands
Louis van Gaal's belief in youth is one of the main reasons for Manchester United placing faith in him. However, his Dutch squad relies considerably on veterans like Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt reproducing peak form that may well lie in the past. Depay, PSV Eindhoven's winger, who has been heavily linked with joining Van Gaal at Old Trafford, can provide a youthful antidote after an excellent season for his club.
Luke Shaw, DF, England
Roy Hodgson made sure that the selection of his final 23 was not going to send shock waves. The selection of Southampton's teenager was the wild card, though, especially when Ashley Cole preceded the announcement by letting it be known that he would not be going to Brazil. That Leighton Baines pulled up with a slight calf problem against Peru introduced the idea that Shaw may yet start for England in Manaus against Italy. For someone as risk-averse as Hodgson, and despite Shaw's talent, it now looks something of a gamble.
Will they be ready?
Kolo Toure, DF, Ivory Coast
When news escaped that Toure has succumbed to malaria again after making a trip to his country's capital, Abidjan -- he suffered a bout in 2008 -- it seemed likely that he would miss out on his country's third World Cup in succession. However, he remains in Sabri Lamouchi's squad, perhaps by dint of his experience and influence on the squad. As the summer's transfer speculation has proved, brother Yaya likes to have friendly faces around him.
Arturo Vidal, MF, Chile
It is not just the Uruguayans who have been agonising over a knee meniscus problem to their star player. Vidal, without doubt Chile's kingpin, had an operation two weeks ago on his right knee, at least placing him ahead of Luis Suarez's current rehab schedule. He takes his place in Jorge Sampaoli's squad despite possibly mixed feelings from club Juventus. If he stars this summer, then Juve could sell him for more money. On the other hand, a relapse may prevent business being done.
Roman Shirokov (Russia)
After his nightmare time with England in 2010's World Cup, Fabio Capello might have learned not to take unnecessary risks with injured players. In South Africa, Ledley King broke down and Gareth Barry was clearly unfit, but Shirokov will go to Brazil with Russia's squad despite a nagging Achilles problem that has prevented him playing since April 26. Capello clearly believes he cannot do without his captain.
Nobody else available?
Antonio Cassano, FW, Italy
Cassano is Italian football's perpetual comeback kid. He is the beneficiary of Giuseppe Rossi's failure to prove his fitness and sharpness to Cesare Prandelli after the Fiorentina striker's latest knee injury. Instead, the Italian coach selected a forward who performed well for him at Euro 2012, notably in tandem with Mario Balotelli. Cassano's move to Parma has regenerated him; also, his continuing problems with his waistline have been countered by giving up his favourite type of Italian bread.
Fernando Torres, FW, Spain
It is clear that Vicente del Bosque does not share the same view of Torres as Jose Mourinho or, say, many of Chelsea's supporters. The striker's ability to hold up the ball has been trusted ahead of that of Alvaro Negredo, whose fade at Manchester City cost him dearly. Diego Costa's hamstring problem may mean that Torres starts, unless del Bosque goes with a "false nine." And that's despite a truly horrendous miss of an open goal against Bolivia on Friday night.
Jo, FW, Brazil
Premier League observers find it difficult to consider that the lanky striker who looked so lost at Manchester City and Everton is now a mainstay of Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad. Scolari hardly rang the surprises with his selections but Jo, despite being a striker who won the Copa Libertadores in 2013 with Atletico Mineiro, probably points to a severe lack of options in his position if Fred fails to fire.