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World Cup Countdown: 24/05/2010

18 days to go

Blood problem rules Diarra out of finals

France midfielder Lassana Diarra will miss the World Cup finals after leaving their training camp in the Alpine resort of Tignes, having been unable to train for three days. The Real Madrid player was suffering from stomach pains triggered by a genetic red blood cell disorder which causes chronic fatigue. His condition may have been aggravated by altitude. "It won't have any bearing on the rest of his career, but he's not fit to play in the World Cup," said the France coach, Raymond Domenech. The manager has yet to decide whether he will replace Diarra in his 24-man provisional squad. "We have a few days to make that decision," he said.

* The Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer joins Harry Kewell on the sidelines, with both missing today's friendly against New Zealand in Melbourne. The Fulham goalkeeper injured his thumb in training last week while Galatasaray midfielder Kewell is still not ready to return after a groin injury.

Quote of the day

"I don't play alone, and I can't perform miracles."

Portugal's £80m man Ronaldo being reassuringly modest. He obviously hasn't seen the unveiling of his statue in that new advert yet.

Realisation of the day

"The brutal reality of going to the World Cup is that you could get beaten five-nil every game." - The New Zealand captain, Ryan Nelson, accepting the mammoth task ahead of his side next month.

Wishful thinking of the day

"My stomach tells me we are going to do well. I have a positive feeling." - South Africa's coach Carlos Alberto Parreira weighs up the hosts' chances; they did recently beat Thailand 4-0 in a friendly.

Bizarre team-building of the day

Despite trying to shake off a calf injury, France's William Gallas declared himself fit enough to race a dune buggy in the training camp yesterday. He crashed, rolling the car over, but fortunately escaped with just a graze on his hand.