England left back Ashley Cole broke his left ankle during a challenge from Landon Donovan, raising the possibility that Wayne Bridge could be alongside John Terry in England's starting lineup for its World Cup opener against the United States.
Cole, who will have surgery Friday, was injured while playing for Chelsea against Everton in the Premier League on Wednesday night and will be sidelined for about three months, the Blues said Thursday. That timetable should allow him to return in time for the World Cup but will give him only a month to regain fitness for a possible rematch against Donovan, a regular starter for the U.S.
Cole's backup on England's national team is Bridge. Terry was dropped as England's captain last week following reports that Terry had an affair with Bridge's former girlfriend.
Chelsea's season will end May 8 or 9 unless it advances to the final of the FA Cup on May 15 or the European Champions League on May 22.
If Cole isn't ready, other possible replacements for England include Blackburn's Stephen Warnock, Manchester City's Joleon Lescott and Everton's Leighton Baines.
Cole was replaced by Michael Ballack after Donovan's challenge in the 57th minute. Although Chelsea did not suggest that Donovan had fouled Cole, Blues assistant coach Ray Wilkins said after the game it was a strong challenge made while Cole was off balance.