London, Mar. 15 (ANI): England coach Fabio Capello was stunned last night by news that star mid-fielder David Beckham had ruptured his left Achilles tendon, and is all but ruled out of World Cup reckoning.
Becks went off on a stretcher after snapping an Achilles in AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo - ending his dreams of lifting the most priceless trophy in football. He is expected to be out for up to a year and he may never play again.
South Africa would have been Becks' fourth World Cup had he gone.
Now, Capello must make plans for the summer without the man who is regarded as the best crosser and dead-ball expert in his squad.
Capello's preparations had already been thrown into disarray by the John Terry affair, which forced a change in captaincy, and by Ashley Cole's broken ankle, which could keep the Chelsea left-back out of the finals.
Last night's disaster adds to the Italian's problems.
Beckham made the decision to play in Italy for the last two winters on loan from LA Galaxy to help keep his World Cup hopes alive.
Beckham had hoped to match Peter Shilton's all-time England record of 125 caps in South Africa, and is still 10 short of the keeper's total after being an unused sub in the 3-1 friendly victory over Egypt earlier this month.
Beckham had shown incredible resilience to fight his way back into the international reckoning.
He resigned as captain in tears after England crashed out of the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals and was then axed from the squad by new boss Steve McClaren.
But the former Manchester United star vowed he would never retire as an England player and if his country ever wanted him again, he would be available.
McClaren was forced to admit he needed Becks.
And when Capello - who once cast him into the wilderness at Real Madrid - took over, he also conceded that Beckham was still an important asset.
Becks' England debut came way back in 1996 in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova. He made what is likely to be his final appearance against Belarus in the 3-0 qualifying win last October.
He never enjoyed the success with England that he did during his club career with Manchester United and then Madrid, who he joined in a 25-million-pound move in 2003.
Beckham was immensely proud to represent England and had even talked of wearing the Three Lions badge beyond this summer's World Cup.
"My passion for the team and the country is that strong. That's never going to change," he said.
The England superstar, 34, flies out to Finland today to see specialist Sakari Orava and goes under the knife inside the next 24 hours.
A. C. Milan doctor Jean-Pierre Meerseman, who is booked on the flight to Scandinavia with Becks, confirmed: "The World Cup is finished for David Beckham."
Midfielder Beckham, England's most capped outfield player with 115 appearances, suffered the injury seven minutes from time in the Serie A clash at the San Siro.
Capello phoned the ex-Three Lions skipper straight after the game to console him.
Consultant sports physician Dr Tom Crisp said: "The chances of him being fit to play at the World Cup are non-existent." (ANI)