World Cup doubt for Cole


LONDON, February 12- Chelsea and England were rocked Thursday by news that Ashley Cole has suffered a fracture of his left ankle and will be out of action for approximately three months.The news is a serious blow to the west London club, for whom Cole had been in superb form, and for England, who will now be left sweating over the fitness of their first-choice left-back for the World Cup in South Africa in June and July.

Although Cole should theoretically be back in action in mid-May, that will leave him with only a month and a handful of games, at best, to regain full match fitness in time for the start of the World Cup in mid-June.

Cole limped off in the second half of Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Everton on Wednesday following a challenge with Landon Donovan, the United States international who ironcially could line up against the defender again when England face the Americans in their World Cup opener on June 12.

If Cole fails to recover in time for the World Cup, it could make life more complicated for head coach Fabio Capello as he mulls how to handle the fallout from the recent furore over John Terry’s alleged affair with the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, Cole’s under-study at left-back for the national team.

Having Bridge and Terry in the same dressing room will inevitably take some managing and the loss of Cole would make Bridge an automatic selection for the final squad.

That would not be the case if Cole were fit with Stephen Warnock of Aston Villa currently pushing hard to be promoted above Bridge, who has been plagued by injures and poor form at Mancester City this season.

All that aside, the loss of Cole would be a serious blow to England’s chances of going deep into the tournament in South Africa. On his recent form, he has a legitimate claim to be regarded as the finest player in his position in the world and is arguably the only England international to have that status.