Ballack blow for Germany

MUNICH - Germany's World Cup hopes suffered a severe blow yesterday when captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of next month's finals with an ankle injury.

MUNICH - Germany's World Cup hopes suffered a severe blow yesterday when captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of next month's finals 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.

The Chelsea midfielder 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.

"It's bitter to get a diagnosis like this two or three weeks before the World Cup. But that's football. It happens," Ballack said.

"(Germany coach Joaquim Loew) is disappointed. I'll fly down there now and we'll let it all sink in," said Ballack, who left the interview on crutches. - Reuters

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