Germans stunned by Ballack World Cup KO
Germany boss Joachim Low today admitted he was "shocked" to learn captain Michael Ballack would miss the World Cup but urged his players to form a united front in South Africa in his absence.
National team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt delivered the news Low had been dreading this morning: his skipper and most influential player had suffered ankle ligament damage and faced up to eight weeks on the sidelines.
Ballack, 33, underwent an MRI in Munich, after which the German Football Association (DFB) released a statement which read: "Captain Michael Ballack is out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"A tear of the medial collateral ligament of the right ankle was found. The right ankle is immobilised in a plaster. He will have to wear a special shoe for two weeks.
"After the diagnosis of national team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt today, a complete healing of the injury is expected. Ballack's return to training is possible at the earliest in eight weeks."
Chelsea midfielder Ballack sustained the injury in Saturday's FA Cup final win over Portsmouth following a heavy challenge from Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Ballack, who has won 98 caps for his country, said: "This is obviously very disappointing, but you have to accept it.
"That is football, it must go on somehow."
Low had earlier spoken of his desperation for his skipper to be given the all-clear and he was understandably downbeat when the prognosis was delivered.
Speaking from Germany's training base in Sicily, Low said: "Of course we are shocked.
"The loss of Michael Ballack is serious. It is not an easy situation for Michael and for us all.
"We are all very, very sad that such an important player, our captain, who is a true world class player has been ruled out."
Low was quick to point out, however, that Ballack's absence should not derail Germany's preparations for South Africa.
He added: "It is clear that it will be difficult without Ballack but we want to achieve what we have planned.
"We will work hard and focus all our energy on the group stage.
"Being resigned (to our fate) should not be talked of. Now is the time to focus all our efforts.
"We continue to hope we will have a good World Cup. Experience teaches us that in such cases, young players often come to the fore and grow."
The message of unity was echoed by DFB president Dr Theo Zwanziger, who said: "The team must be together more now than ever.
"If the team is close and show solidarity they can still perform a good World Cup."
Low said he would not be adding another player to the provisional squad announced last week and two former Germany internationals have spoken of their hope that Ballack's absence would enable the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger to take on a more prominent role.
Schweinsteiger has been successfully converted from a right-sided winger into a central midfielder this season by Bayern Munich boss Louis van Gaal.
Former Germany coach Berti Vogts said: "His (Ballack's) absence could prompt other players to give more.
"Bastian, for example, is in superb form and I think he can be one of the leading personalities at this World Cup."
Wolfsburg general manager Dieter Hoeness added: "Schweinsteiger must now assume more responsibility. Michael Ballack is very difficult to replace."