Germany captain Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup because of a right ankle injury, dealing the three-time champion team a serious blow less than a month before the tournament.
The German soccer federation said Monday that the 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder had torn ligaments in his right ankle from a tackle during his club's 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth on Saturday. Ballack's ankle is in a cast and the federation said he won't be able to train for at least eight weeks.
"It's very disappointing, but I have to accept it," Ballack told German television, standing with crutches. "It's football and you have to live with it.… I am angry, clearly."
Ballack's absence leaves Germany coach Joachim Loew without his most experienced player and leader in a squad with many young players. The German media called it a "shock."
The injury will cost the 33-year-old Ballack a final chance to win the World Cup title after reaching the 2002 final and the 2006 semifinals.
"We are shocked, no question about it, and we are all very, very sad," Loew said at the team's training camp in Sicily. "He is a very important player for us, a world-class player who played a very important role in decisive games for us.
"There can be no question of resignation now. We are sure we can still play a good tournament."
Loew said it was now up to young players to step up and rise to the occasion.
"We have to give them confidence," he said.
The Germany coach also said that Ballack would visit the team at its base in Sicily soon.
Loew will now have to pick a new captain and find someone to fill the defensive midfield role played by Ballack, Germany's three-time player of the year.
Despite his long and distinguished service, Ballack has been unable to win a title with Germany. 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 the United States and South Korea helped Germany reach the final. But he missed the final 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 took over as coach and selected Ballack as his captain.
Ballack missed the opening match 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.
Ballack flew to Germany late Sunday to be examined by national team and Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt on Monday. Ballack's ankle was still too swollen Sunday for a previously scheduled scan in London.
The federation said he should make a full recovery.
Ballack, who has made 98 appearances for Germany and scored 42 goals, was injured Saturday after a tackle by Kevin-Prince Boateng, previously a Bundesliga player who is the half-brother of Germany defender Jerome Boateng. Kevin-Prince Boateng has been chosen to play for Ghana, the country of his father and one of Germany's World Cup opponents.
Loew called the tackle "brutal," and Ballack said the foul might have been intentional. Ballack and Boateng were involved in a scuffle shortly before the foul.
"I have seen it on TV and to say it was not on purpose means you have to be a friend of Boateng," Ballack said after the final at Wembley. "Boateng was lucky to get away with a yellow, but it is football and if the referee controls the game and decides it is no red card you have to accept it."
Boateng was born and raised in Berlin and played for several Germany youth selections, including the under-21 team. From Hertha Berlin, he moved to Tottenham, then went on loan to Borussia Dortmund before joining Portsmouth.
In comments made to Sport-Bild online, Boateng apologized.
"I am sorry. there was no intent. I was too late and hit him with full force," Boateng said.
Germany's incomplete squad has been in Sicily since Friday. Seven players from Bayern Munich will join only after Saturday's Champions League final against Inter Milan.
Germany opens its World Cup campaign against Australia and then plays Serbia and Ghana in Group D.