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Antonio Cassano, David Villa, Jack Wilshere & the injured stars at risk of missing Euro 2012

Antonio Cassano, David Villa, Jack Wilshere & the injured stars at risk of missing Euro 2012

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There are a number of important players struggling to make the summer's European Championship because of injury and Goal.com profiles some of the biggest names who may miss out

ANALYSIS
By Robin Bairner

The countdown to the summer’s European Championship is well and truly on, but while the start date in June may yet seem a great distance away for fans hungry to see their teams in action, the same date is all too imminent for some of the continent’s biggest footballing stars, who risk missing the competition because of injuries.

There is little over three months remaining before the tournament begins, but there are a number of players fighting not only to be physically ready, but also fully match fit.

England striker Darren Bent was the latest player to fall foul of Lady Luck, hit down by injury over the course of the last week, and along with him, Goal.com profiles some of the game’s best players who could be forced to watch the matches in Ukraine and Poland unfold at home.

IBRAHIM AFELLAY | Netherlands

Read more on Afellay
PROFILE
Age
25
Position
Attacking midfielder
Club Barcelona
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Torn anterior cruciate ligament
Expected back
April
Serious knee damage sustained last September meant that there has long been a doubt over the attacker’s ability to play in Euro 2012, but he’s been making promising steps back towards the first team in recent weeks. The 25-year-old has been training individually since the middle of February, receiving a standing ovation from his team-mates as he returned to action.

There’s still some distance left for the versatile player to go before he returns to competitive action, but the signs would seem to point to him gaining match fitness before the summer.

Countryman Hedwiges Maduro of Valencia, who has also been suffering on the physical front, is also expected to be back in contention for Oranje come the summer.

IGOR AKINFEEV | Russia

Read more on Akinfeev
PROFILE
Age
25
Position
Goalkeeper
Club
CSKA Moscow
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Ruptured cruciate ligaments
Expected back
Late spring
Regarded as one of the stars of Russian football, it would be a huge blow to the national team if their first-choice goalkeeper was to miss out because of a serious knee injury sustained last August as he clashed with Spartak Moscow striker Welliton.

Speaking to Rossiya-24 last week, Akinfeev said: "I could tell you again and again that I’ll be ready, that I’ll travel there, but no one needs a one-legged goalkeeper.

“I’m the sort of person who, if my leg hurts, won’t force my way in and disturb someone else if a healthy guy can play better than me. So, everything will depend on me and the state of my knee.”

Zenit St Petersburg's Vyacheslav Malafeev has been struggling with calf problems this season, so a crisis is brewing for Russia in the goalkeeping department.

DARREN BENT | England

Read more on Bent
PROFILE
Age
28
Position
Striker
Club
Aston Villa
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Ruptured ankle ligaments
Expected back
May
After falling awkwardly in Aston Villa's 0-0 draw with Wigan on Saturday, Darren Bent is facing up to three months out of the game with ruptured ankle ligaments. With the news having only been announced by the Villans on Monday, the striker's chances of making it to Poland and Ukraine remain shrouded in mystery. The former Tottenham man could yet require surgery and will have a scan to determine as much in a week's time.

As the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League last season with 17 goals, Bent forced himself to be taken seriously by then England manager Fabio Capello and scored an average of a goal every other game in 2011 for the Three Lions.

The Italian may have left but regardless, Bent would be a near certainty to travel to the Euros, even if Harry Redknapp took over, despite the pair having had a somewhat tumultuous relationship at White Hart Lane.

With Wayne Rooney suspended for England's opening two group games against France and Sweden, Bent's race to be fit could become crucial to the national team's hopes of qualifying for the knockout rounds. The Three Lions are fast running out of options.

ANTONIO CASSANO | Italy

Read more on Cassano
PROFILE
Age
29
Position
Attacker
Club
AC Milan
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Ischemic trauma
Expected back
Summer
Cassano will not play again this season after suffering an ischemic trauma after Milan's win away to Roma in October.

The striker underwent surgery within days of his condition being identified, and it was originally hoped that he may return as early as March, but that timescale proved ambitious. He was forced to receive few visitors at one stage, as doctors warned him that too much excitement could lead to a dangerous rise in his blood pressure, meaning he went a period without seeing any of his Rossoneri team-mates.

However, he returned to Milanello shortly before Christmas and has been gradually stepping up his training regime, but is now unlikely to play any football until pre-season training begins in July.

RICHARD DUNNE | Ireland

Read more on Dunne
PROFILE
Age
32
Position
Defender
Club Aston Villa
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Fractured clavicle
Expected back
Late April
Richard Dunne suffered a fractured clavicle during Aston Villa's 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in February. He was initially slated to be absent for six weeks but two months is now looking a more likely duration.

Irish press reports over the weekend suggested that Dunne had played his last game for Villa this season but those fears have since been allayed. Nonetheless, Ireland need to be able to count on their most dependable defender if they stand any chance of competing with Croatia, Spain and Italy for a knockout berth. Dunne was crowned Ireland's Player of the Year on Sunday and his influence for the Boys in Green is unmatched within the squad.

GIUSEPPE ROSSI | Italy

Read more on Rossi
PROFILE
Age
25
Position
Striker
Club
Villarreal
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Torn anterior cruciate ligament
Expected back
Late April
An anterior cruciate ligament injury on Rossi's right knee suffered at the end of October put his Euro 2012 presence in doubt. His agent has said the player hopes to be back with around five or six games left in the Liga season.

If Rossi is available, one would expect him to be in the squad as coach Prandelli built Italy’s qualifying campaign around the combination of Cassano and Rossi in attack. So if the American-born Italian can take part, he likely will be in the final 23-man squad.

DAVID VILLA | Spain

Read more on Villa
PROFILE
Age
30
Position
Striker
Club
Barcelona
INURY STATUS
Injury
Fractured left tibia
Expected back
Late spring
David Villa fractured his left tibia in the Club World Cup match against Al Sadd in Yokohama back in December and was thought to be a big doubt for the European Championship. The Barcelona striker, who had spent much of the early part of the season on the bench, is still sidelined but is working hard to return and has stepped up the recovery process since having two screws removed from his tibia in early February. Villa is now putting in long hours in the gym and remains determined to be ready for the summer showpiece.

"When I injured myself, I said that my goal was to help FC Barcelona at the end of the season and be available to go to the European Championship if the coach considers it appropriate. And every day that passes I am more optimistic that I’ll be able to do so because I am working very hard on my recovery," he recently wrote on his blog.

JACK WILSHERE | England

Read more on Wilshere
PROFILE
Age
20
Position
Midfielder
Club
Arsenal
INJURY STATUS
Injury
Ankle stress fracture
Expected back
March-April
The Arsenal man has had a dreadful time with injuries this season. He picked up a stress fracture in his right ankle during pre-season and recently another in his heel just before making a return.

He has been tweeting that he'll know more about his condition soon, but all the talk is that he will be lucky to play at all this season, and whoever gets the England job would only be able to take a punt on him regaining sufficient fitness for the tournament. Without many quality alternatives, there is every chance that the Three Lions manager for the tournament may well take a gamble on the midfielder.

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Richard Dunne suffered a fractured clavicle during Aston Villa's 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in February. He was initially slated to be absent for six weeks but two months is now looking a more likely duration. Irish press reports over the weekend suggested that Dunne had played his last game for Villa this season but those feared have since been allayed. Nonetheless, Ireland need to be able to count on their most dependable defender if they stand any chance of competing with Croatia, Spain and Italy for a knockout berth. Dunne was crowned Ireland's player of the year on Sunday and his influence for the Boys in Green is unmatched within the squad.

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