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World Cup qualifying

Crunch time on the road to South Africa

Observers at the German and French training bases on Monday would have heard metaphorical sighs of relief from both camps. After a period of uncertainty over the fitness of Mario Gomez and Franck Ribéry to face Azerbaijan and Serbia respectively in World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday, injury reports regarding the Bayern pair turned a lot more positive by Monday evening.

Gomez, who broke off training with the Germany squad in Cologne on Sunday afternoon complaining of knee pain, reported for a medical and MRI scan on Monday. However, the player was cleared to rejoin the squad at their pre-match training base in Barsinghausen the same evening. “Mario’s in much better shape. He’s still feeling the knee a little, but there’s been a definite improvement,” the German FA medical unit reported.

Last chance, France

The Bayern striker should be fit to play on Wednesday. The same goes for club team-mate and France star Ribéry, who came away from his country’s qualifying draw with Romania on Saturday complaining of a blow to the calf, but was able to complete the final training workout on Monday afternoon before the squad’s departure for Belgrade.