FRANKFURT (AP) — Germany captain Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup because of torn ligaments in his right ankle, a serious blow to the three-time champions less than a month before the tournament.
The 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder was hurt during his club's 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth on Saturday. Ballack's ankle is in a cast, and the German soccer federation said Monday he won't be able to train for at least eight weeks. A full recovery is expected.
"It's football and you have to live with it. ... I am angry, clearly," Ballack told German television, standing with crutches.
Ballack flew to Germany on Sunday to be examined the next day by the national team and Bayern Munich doctor. On Monday, Ballack joined the German team at its training camp in Sicily.
The injury probably robs Ballack, Germany's three-time player of the year, of his final chance to win the World Cup after reaching the 2002 final and the 2006 semifinals.
"It's got a little bit of a bad aftertaste when he's going to miss the World Cup," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley, whose team could meet Germany in the second round. "He's been such an important player for them. Any time there's an injury late where a big player is going to miss the opportunity to play in the World Cup. I think everybody feels bad about it."
Germany coach Joachim Loew called the tackle by former Bundesliga player Kevin-Prince Boateng "brutal." Ballack said the foul might have been intentional. The two scuffled shortly before the foul.
Boateng apologized in comments made to Sport-Bild online.
"I am sorry. there was no intent. I was too late and hit him with full force," Boateng said.
Germany opens World Cup play against Australia and then plays Serbia and Ghana in Group D. Loew is now without his most experienced player on a team with many youngsters. Loew must choose a new captain and find someone to fill Ballack's defensive midfield role.
"We are shocked, no question about it, and we are all very, very sad," Loew said from Sicily. "He is a very important player for us, a world class player who played a very important role in decisive games for us."
Ballack has made 98 appearances for Germany and scored 42 goals. He played a total of 63 minutes in his first major tournament, the 2000 European Championship.
Two years later in Japan and South Korea, his goals against United States and South Korea helped Germany reach the final. But he missed the loss to Brazil after receiving a yellow card in the semifinals.
The 2004 European Championship was another disappointment, with Germany eliminated after the group stage. Juergen Klinsmann then became coach and appointed Ballack captain.
Ballack missed the opening game of the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of a calf injury and didn't score in the tournament.
He had two ankle operations before Euro 2008 but injured a calf before the final. Ballack played the match but Germany lost to Spain.