Italy's World Cup hopes have been shaken by an injury that could rule Francesco Totti out of the summer tournament in Germany.
The Roma playmaker picked up an injury during Sunday's 1-0 win over Empoli after a tackle from the Tuscany club's Richard Vanigli which needed immediate surgery.
The fibula in his lower left leg has been fractured while there is also thought to be ankle ligament damage to the 29-year-old who is the Azzurri's chief creative player and who has been in superb form recently.
Initial assessments said the player would not play again for two months but, after further examination, that has already been extended to three which puts the player's World Cup hopes on a knife edge.
The Italian season ends on May 14 and if the three-month prognosis is accurate it would mean that national team coach Marcello Lippi would have to decide whether to gamble on a player not match fit.
Lippi, speaking after talking to Roma's medical staff, tried to sound upbeat when he said: 'It would be a pity not to have him at the World Cup because he is a very important player for Italy. But we are expecting him (to be there).'
Vanigli was distraught, telling www.gazzetta.it: 'I don't make a habit of hurting opponents - especially not a great player like Totti.
'I am devastated and want to say sorry in public. I arrived a bit late from behind but I went for the ball and my conscience is clear even if I am feeling bad.
'I haven't spoken to Totti but I hope to go and see him and speak to him as soon as possible.'
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti exonerated the Empoli player from blame, telling club website www.asroma.it: 'Vanigli's foul was not a nasty one but these are the risks with tackles from behind - that's what I think when I see the replay on TV.'
What do you have to think on the ones who are not going to make it, ( i can name 100 good players who ll be there) ohh I see you are still bitter that Etoo will watch the World Cuo por la television. :tongue:
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