Fabio Capello is crossing his fingers that Ashley Cole recovers from his broken ankle in time to make the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The Chelsea left-back underwent surgery yesterday on an injury picked up at Everton on Wednesday that is set to keep him out for three months.
If that timescale is correct, the only Blues matches he would be available for would be the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League finals, should the club get that far. It would give Capello a headache as Cole would have had no match practice heading into the last two friendlies before departure for South Africa. In all likelihood, the Italian would trust the naturally fit 29-year-old, who most regard as one of England's true world-class talents.
"It is sad news for me because he is a very important player," Capello acknowledged. "He is good when defending and really dangerous when we go forward. I hope this problem will not be so serious."
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti expects Cole to make it, but regardless of the long-term issues, there are immediate consequences for England ahead of their friendly with recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations winners Egypt at Wembley on 3 March.
Although there are other options, specifically the flexible James Milner and his Aston Villa team-mate Stephen Warnock, Wayne Bridge is generally regarded as Cole's understudy. Yet, only last week, John Terry was sacked as captain for an alleged dalliance with his former Chelsea team-mate's ex-girlfriend.
Although Bridge has vowed not to speak about the issue, it was claimed the 29-year-old was uncomfortable with the thought of sharing a dressing room with Terry. However, his club manager Roberto Mancini has attempted to allay any fears about the Manchester City player's commitment to the England cause.
"If he is picked, he will play," said Mancini. "The national team is important for every player and it is the same for Wayne Bridge.
"He is committed to playing for England and it is important for any player to play at the World Cup, especially if they are in the first XI. I know the injury to Ashley Cole is a problem for England but Wayne can play in this position for the national team."