Injuries are already a running theme of this World Cup which kicks off Sunday when Ecuador face host nation Qatar. Major stars and important players like Paul Pogba, Reece James, and Giovani Lo Celso were omitted from the final 26 man squads for their nations in the lead-up to the tournament as the unique nature of the winter World Cup has meant injuries big and small threaten players' tournaments. And the hits have kept on coming. Five players have been ruled out of the World Cup in training this week with replacements being named for four of them. The one player awaiting a replacement is the most important of the bunch, Sadio Mane. The heartbeat of the reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions due to recovery from a right fibula injury.
Who are the rest of the late misses, and who are their replacements?
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- Presnel Kimpembe (PSG): While Kimpembe wasn't expected to be a key starter for Les Blues, the PSG defender has been strong when called upon and plays in a back three at times. His absence will be felt all the more keenly with fellow center back Raphel Varane also nursing an injury, France may have to dig deep for their opening match against Australia.
- Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig): In France's star studded attack, Nkunku was expected to feature from the bench but that doesn't mean the impact of his loss will be minor. One of the most dynamic players in the world, Nkunku has scored 15 goals between the Bundesliga and Champions League. He would've been an invaluable option off the bench to keep the pressure on or nab an insurance goal.
- Axel Diasi (AS Monaco): The AS Monaco defender could be in line for his first senior cap after replacing Kimpembe in the squad. While Monaco's defense has been shaky, allowing 21 goals Diassi isn't on the squad list for defense. He keeps attacks on their toes and has registered one goal and three assists in Ligue 1 play from center back and can keep teams guessing if France needs to push for goals late.
- Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt): Kolo Muani has been in the middle of everything since moving to Frankfurt. With eight goals and 11 assists in all competitions. He has been a force for the team and although he brings a different style than Nkunku, the callup is well deserved. Kolo Muani only has two caps so far for Les Blues but that could change quickly.
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid): Late Saturday and will miss the entire tournament for France. His replacement with the squad is pending.
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- Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan): Picking up a knee injury that will rule him out of the tournament Correa had to be replaced. While he isn't a full time starter at Inter, Correa did score two goals during World Cup qualifying.
- Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina): Out with a muscular issue, Gonzalez is someone who was a long shot to be healthy before the World Cup began. Lionel Scaloni opted to replace him rather than see if he'd recover in time as Gonzalez is another depth player in the side. With only one goal in six matches for Fiorentina, he would've needed an electric performance to set the World Cup alight.
- Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid): This is where Argentina's lack of depth in attack begins to show as Correa only has four goals in 21 appearances this season. While he was a part of Argentina's side that won Copa America, his performances haven't been stellar this season, so hopefully Argentina will be healthy enough to not play the forward.
- Thiago Almada (Atlanta United): An exciting addition to the squad is MLS newcomer of the year, Almada. While Atlanta United had a disappointing season, Almada shined scoring six goals and adding 12 assists. Along with Enzo Fernandez, Almada can allow Argentina to have real gamechangers off the bench if they are pushing for a win.