Germany captain Ballack out of World Cup

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Germany’s World Cup hopes suffered a severe blow on Monday when captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of next month’s finals in South Africa with an ankle injury.

It was also a personal setback for 33-year-old Ballack, who was set to play at his third World Cup and is unlikely to get another chance to perform on the sport’s biggest stage.

Chelsea midfielder Ballack was injured in the first half of Saturday’s English FA Cup final against Portsmouth, limping off during the first-half of his team’s 1-0 win after a late tackle by Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The ankle was so badly swollen that a planned scan on Sunday had to be postponed until Monday morning.

“There’s naturally a lot of disappointment. It’s bitter to get a diagnosis like that two or three weeks before the World Cup. But that’s football. That happens. Life goes on,” Ballack told German television.

“He (Germany coach Joaquim Loew) is naturally disappointed. I’ll fly down there now and we’ll let it all sink in,” added Ballack, who broke off the interview and hobbled away on crutches.

Loew said: “Michael Ballack is a very important player for us, in the decisive matches he often played a very, very important role for us, a central role for us.

“We were all naturally shocked this morning when we got the news. I talked to Michael. He’s deeply disappointed. He put all his energy and power into playing in this World Cup.

“He’s near his 100th cap. That would have been a match in Frankfurt against Bosnia.

“That’s an immense disappointment for him to not be able to play in this World Cup.

YOUNG PLAYERS

“I called the team together and spoke with the team and passed along the information. It’s very, very unfortunate for us. But it shows we have to pull all our strength together and look forward. We’ve got a lot of young players.

“We’ve now got to get to that point that our younger players get this self-confidence and can grow into the roles.”

The DFB said Ballack has suffered a tear of one ankle ligament and a partial tear of another. They said his right ankle would be placed in a cast and he would have to wear a special shoe for two weeks once the cast was removed.

“According to the diagnosis today by national team physician, Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt, a complete recovery can be expected, but a return to training will not be possible for at least eight weeks,” said a statement.

German-born Boateng, booked for the tackle, is in the provisional squad of Germany’s first round opponents Ghana.

DFB president Theo Zwanziger expressed anger at the tackle.

“I’m deeply sad that Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup because of a foul like that. He has done an enormous amount for German football in the last few years and would have deserved to take part in this tournament,” he said.

“It’s very tough to have this news just before his 100th game, but we will …. help him where we can.”

Ballack won the first of his 98 caps against Scotland in April 1999 and helped Germany reached the final of the World Cup in 2002 and third place four years ago, when they hosted the tournament.

An early x-ray at the stadium showed he had not broken any bones but Ballack was still worried as he left Wembley stadium.

Germany face Australia, Serbia and Ghana in Group D at the World Cup.

Loew is already under fire for leaving Schalke 04 striker Kevin Kuranyi out of the squad, despite the player’s impressive tally of 18 Bundesliga goals this season.

In contrast, Loew’s chosen strikers, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez have all struggled to hit the target. –Reuters