RUSTENBURG, June 14 – Fears Ledley King's World Cup may have come to a premature end mounted on Monday when England team officials admitted they could not say when he would return from injury.An adductor muscle (groin) problem has already ruled the Tottenham defender out of England’s second group C match, against Algeria in Cape Town on Friday, and there are fears that, given that he suffers from a chronic knee condition which prevents him from training normally, the lay-off will be significantly longer.
An England spokesman denied that King was definitely out of the tournament but acknowledged that the squad’s medical team were still uncertain of when he would be ready to return.
"Ledley has a groin muscle strain. He will be assessed on a day-to-day basis," the spokesman said.
King suffered the injury in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the United States, which has increased the pressure on Fabio Capello’s squad to win Friday’s encounter with the Algerians.
The 29-year-old joined his team-mates at the start of Monday’s training sessioin at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, but after listening to Capello’s pep talk, departed immediately to continue his rehabilitation work in the swimming pool.
Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney, who suffered a knock on the ankle in the match against the Americans, were also unable to train but England officials played down their injuries, insisting both players would be fit to face Algeria.
The injury to King has cast doubt on the wisdom of Capello’s decision to include a player who rarely plays two games in a week for his club in his squad for an intense, month-long tournament.
King was brought to South Africa on the back of his outstanding form for Spurs in the second half of the Premier League season, initially as a back-up for first-choice centrebacks Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
That changed when Ferdinand suffered a freak injury in England’s first full training session in South Africa and England fans’ worst fears were confirmed when Capello was forced to substitute King at half-time on Saturday evening.
His replacement, Jamie Carragher, looked short of pace and, after being booked for one late challenge, was fortunate not to be sent off for checking Jozy Altidore’s run late in the game.
Carragher, 32, looks likely to start against Algeria, given Capello’s limited alternatives.
Matthew Upson was the main back-up for Ferdinand during the qualifying campaign but struggled for form towards the end of a difficult season with West Ham while King’s Tottenham team-mate, Michael Dawson, called up following Ferdinand’s injury, has yet to play in a full international for his country.
Capello’s judgement has rarely been questioned during his two-and-a-half years in charge of England.
But the Italian suddenly finds himself facing the first real crisis of his reign with his faith in Robert Green, the West Ham goalkeeper whose error gifted the Americans their equaliser on Saturday, also triggering criticism.
The Italian is contemplating recalling David James for the Algeria match but has insisted that Green had deserved his chance on the basis of pre-tournament form and fitness.
"I didn’t make mistakes and I’m not worried for the future," Capello said.
"We played a good game and, for me, the most important thing was to see the spirit of the team and also the physical condition of the players.
"I was worried about the result because it is possible to lose a game like this. We had seven or eight chances. That is good football."