Can World Cup teams replace injured players?

Injuries are always an unfortunate byproduct of the World Cup.

After just a few days of action in Qatar, we’ve already seen a serious injury, two concussions and a scare for the England captain.

Lucas Hernandez’s World Cup, and probably his season, was brought to a premature end 13 minutes into France’s winner against Australia. It has been confirmed that the Bayern Munich defender suffered serious damage to his knee in the process of opening the Socceroos score.

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Meanwhile, there is cause for concern in the England camp Athletic Harry Kane is set for a scan on his ankle after picking up a knock in his team’s opener against Iran, it has been revealed.

to go deeper

Can either team or either country replace injured players? Read on to find out.

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Could Harry Kane or Lucas Hernandez be replaced at the World Cup?

Unfortunately, teams cannot be changed at this time.

The cut-off date for transfers was 24 hours before each country’s first match in the tournament; Sunday for England, Monday for France.

France can’t replace Lucas Hernandez in their squad (Photo by Jean Gatuf/Getty Images)

At the time of writing, that means the teams playing on Thursday could still make changes. However, there are rules that prevent managers from making the changes they want.

Once the squads are released by FIFA – the Tuesday before the start of the World Cup – the only way to make a substitution is if a player is injured or ill. FIFA’s General Medical Officer must decide whether any injury or illness is serious enough to exclude a player for the duration of the World Cup.

Several teams took advantage of the ruling in the final days before the start of the tournament as players cruelly robbed them of their World Cup dreams with late injuries.

Christopher Ngungu was one of the players to be replaced ahead of kick-off in Qatar after a training injury forced him out of the squad, with Randall Kolo Mwani taking his place. Didier Deschamps could hope to do the same with Lucas Hernandez but he doesn’t have that luxury.

What are the options of England and France?

England believe they have no choice. There were no real concerns after the game about Kane’s ankle problem.

Indeed, he was injured in the 48th minute after a strong challenge from Mortesa Bowraliganchi and was replaced by Callum Wilson who did not leave the pitch until the 75th minute.

Gareth Southgate was not worried about the situation after the match but, clearly, there are now some concerns within the camp about his fitness. It seems unlikely that the Three Lions captain will be ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup, but he could miss Friday’s Group B clash against the USA.

That means either Wilson – whose injury is the worst – or Marcus Rashford could replace him in the starting XI against Greg Berhalder’s side.

In the French camp, the situation is much clearer. Lucas Hernandez will play no further part in the World Cup and although he cannot be replaced in the squad, he must be replaced.

Against Australia on Tuesday, his brother Theo replaced him and that will surely continue as the tournament continues. Deschamps was asked questions before the match when selecting Lucas Dio, so if nothing else, it makes the manager’s life easier.

However, an injury or suspension to Theo would be a nightmare for the France boss as Real Madrid’s Ferland Mendy is left at home and has no other cover in that position in the squad.

In the absence of Theo Hernandez, that could force Deschamps to operate with wing-backs rather than full-backs, or move one of his left-footed midfielders – Adrien Rabiot or Eduardo Camavinga – to the left-back position.

(Top image: Mark Adkins/Getty Images)


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