The FIFA deadline for World Cup squads is Tuesday, with each of the 32 teams finally deciding on which 23 men will proudly represent their nations in South Africa. For the coaches doing the choosing, it's the culmination of a long series of cuts.
They start with every eligible male in the population. Then they cut everyone who's not a professional footballer. Then they cut everyone who's not a very good professional footballer and/or they don't have some personal gripe against, and they end up with 30 or so players. Then Tuesday, the coaches make a series of awkward phone calls to the guys who came close but not close enough. Some will be very surprised.
Several big names have heard the bad news recently.
South Africa's Benni McCarthy — the all-time leading scorer for the host nation — didn't quite make the final grade. It has been suggested that he was a little chubbier than international footballers should be, and has shown more commitment to his various clubs (Celta Vigo, Porto, Blackburn, West Ham) than to country in recent years. So he's off the South Africa's World Cup squad.
Italy's Fabio Grosso — the man who scored not only this goal vs. Germany in the 2006 World Cup semi-final, but also the winning spot kick in the 2006 World Cup final shootout — was axed from Marcello Lippi's Italy squad. This came just a week after being included in the preliminary squad. Seems past exploits are no guarantee of future inclusion.
Speaking of which ... The once great Ronaldinho was on Brazil coach Dunga's official 30-man list submitted to FIFA last month, but not on Dunga's publicly expressed preferred list of 23. So Ronaldinho's 2010 dream dies Tuesday, when the final cut becomes official.
The player maybe most surprised to be excluded Tuesday was England's Theo Walcott. He must have been quietly confident. He was called up for the 2006 World Cup squad as a 17-year-old, despite never having set foot in the Premier League. And he scored a vital hat-trick against Croatia during England's World Cup qualification campaign in September 2008. But it wasn't to be. To make things worse, the whole of England this morning.
It's hard not to feel sympathy for the guys above, and others like them. When I fell short of England's World Cup squad in the first round of cuts by virtue of not being anything even resembling a professional footballer, I didn't notice. So it didn't hurt. There were also a lot of professional players who knew they weren't good enough and so they had no expectation of making a World Cup squad. So they probably didn't feel too bad about it either. But to be on the preliminary World Cup squad, within touching distance of the finish line only to be excluded at the very last minute, well, that has to hurt. Because now instead of being involved in the action, they're going to have to watch it on TV with the rest of us. Pass the chips Ronaldinho.
Feel pity for those star players which is not included in the world cup squad.