Munich: Germany’s World Cup hopes suffered a severe blow on Monday when captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of the 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 who was booked.
The ankle was so badly swollen that a planned scan on Sunday had to be postponed until Monday morning.
“Germany captain Michael Ballack has been ruled out for the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa,” said the German Football Federation (DFB) in a statement.
“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.”
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.
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.
Loew, due to give a television interview later on Monday, had described Ballack as “our captain and absolute leading player.”
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.