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Injuries keenly felt by squads

Injury worries now stand between the World Cup squads and the settled teams they need for Japan and Korea.

Mexico were dealt a severe blow after their everlasting captain Claudio Suarez, who has 170 international caps, suffered a broken leg which will keep him out of the tournament.

Republic of Ireland fans must have winced when they saw the talismanic Roy Keane stretchered off in a Manchester United game although the prognosis is that Keane should be back to full fitness before the World Cup.

But nowhere was the serious effect of injuries demonstrated more than in the recent friendly between Portugal and Finland. Portugal were playing at home and would normally have been expected to dance through a contest like this but they were without key players Luis Figo and Rui Costa and they went down 4-1.

The recent round of internationals thus emphasised Portugal&#39s dependence on key players and raised some questions over favourites Argentina, who could only draw 2-2 with Cameroon. It also underlined how weak the South Africa team are as they had two men sent off in losing to Georgia 4-1, a few days before playing Botswana against whom they could only scrape to a 0-0 draw. The resounding performance was that of France, who looked magnificent in thumping in five unanswered goals against Scotland.

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