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David Beckham left the pitch on a stretcher Sunday after rupturing his left Achilles tendon. ((Antonio Calanni/Associated Press))

England coach Fabio Capello expressed sadness Monday that David Beckham's ruptured Achilles' tendon will likely prevent him from playing at the World Cup.

Capello described the injury as a "big blow" for the 34-year-old Beckham, but the Italian's plans in South Africa won't likely be affected much.

Beckham stayed on the bench in the friendly against Egypt earlier this month and was only used as a substitute in the last two World Cup qualifiers. But Capello, who previously coached Beckham at Real Madrid, insisted last month that Beckham was still "really dangerous" with his crossing and viewed his experience as a key weapon for South Africa.

"I am very sad for David that he has suffered this injury," Capello said. "We have to wait for the results of the scan, but it looks like he is out of the World Cup.

"I spoke with him after the game on Sunday night to offer my support, as did (assistant) Franco Baldini. David is a great professional and has worked very hard to be ready for the World Cup, so missing it will be a big blow."

Beckham flew Monday to Finland for surgery on his left Achilles' tendon, but he is unlikely to recover in time for the World Cup, which begins for England on June 12 against the United States.

However, Beckham spokesman Simon Oliveira insisted that Beckham's playing career is not over.

"He hopes to make a swift and full recovery," Oliveira told The Associated Press.

Beckham was injured Sunday during the final minutes of a 1-0 Italian league win over Chievo Verona when he was by himself with the ball at his feet.

He shifted his weight, reached a hand down to his left heel and then stood up and snapped his wrists like he was breaking a twig in half.

Beckham was only on loan at Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy during the Major League Soccer off-season so he could be considered for a World Cup place. But England's most capped outfield player will not become the country's first player to appear at four World Cups.

Beckham's international career could now be over after 115 appearances, second in English history behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.

Beckham, who began his career at Manchester United in 1992, made his England debut against Moldova in September 1996.

Despite being the game's most recognizable face, the furthest Beckham reached at the World Cup was the quarter-finals -- in 2002 and 2006.

Beckham quit as captain after the 2006 World Cup in Germany and was initially dropped by coach Steve McClaren in August, but he was restored as England's European Championship campaign faltered.

McClaren was fired in November 2008 after failing to qualify for Euro 2008, and Beckham survived Capello's takeover.

Beckham's injury is likely to boost the chances of Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips making Capello's 23-man World Cup squad, although England's most dangerous attacking player on the right flank -- Aaron Lennon -- is still a doubt for South Africa.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said Sunday that Lennon is "quite a way off" from making his comeback from a groin injury that has sidelined him since December.