Ryan Nelsen's leg injury should not prevent him leading the All Whites at the World Cup and, at worst, he may be sidelined for eight weeks.
Fears the All Whites captain had seriously injured his knee playing for Blackburn Rovers yesterday morning have subsided after his father, Wayne, said it was unlikely that Ryan would require surgery and that he should be fit for the global tournament in South Africa in June.
"It's not as bad as we probably first thought," Wayne Nelsen said.
"It's the hyper-extension of the ligaments I think. It's not the cruciate [ligament]," he said.
Central defender Nelsen landed awkwardly on his right leg following an aerial challenge during Blackburn's 3-0 home defeat of Bolton in their English Premier League match.
After lengthy treatment, he limped from the ground just before halftime and was replaced.
Although Wayne Nelsen had not spoken directly to his son, he had been in contact with one of Ryan's friends who had called him soon after he was injured.
"At absolute best he could be out for a fortnight and at worst it could be eight weeks," Wayne Nelsen said.
The injury is likely to rule Nelsen out of the All Whites' buildup match against Mexico in Los Angeles on March 3 but he could be fit for the encounters against Australia in Melbourne on May 24, Serbia in Austria on May 30 and Slovenia in Slovenia on June 4.
Having previously had an operation on the bone behind his knee cap, which has been pinned, there were fears Nelsen had aggravated that old injury or suffered ligament damage.
Sitting in his Christchurch living room, Wayne Nelsen admitted he feared the worst.
"I actually watched the game live and when I saw him go down and he was holding that knee, I thought, `Oh, God'. It didn't look good. It's a load off his mind [that the injury is not serious], no doubt, because he was certainly looking forward to this World Cup thing."
Having booked a trip prior to the injury, Nelsen senior is scheduled to fly to England to catch up with his wife, Christine, and Ryan today.
Christine left on Saturday and arrived in Manchester 90 minutes before kickoff at Ewood Park.
Now the parents should see their son play at the World Cup. "I was wondering if we would a few hours ago, but we will see how it goes," Wayne Nelsen said.
All Whites assistant coach Brian Turner said that a World Cup campaign without Nelsen would be an "expensive blow" to New Zealand's hopes but refused to get too concerned just yet.
"It just happened overnight and only after our medical people have been in touch with the medical people at Blackburn will we know the full extent of the injury," said Ricki Herbert's assistant.
Turner had watched Blackburn's match and immediately knew his skipper was in trouble.
"He tried to play on but knows his body pretty well. He is such a consummate professional that he will do all the right things to get back on the field as soon as possible.
"And remember he's in excellent hands with the medical staff at Blackburn."
Both Herbert and Turner will keep their fingers crossed, "because Ryan brings so much to our team, both on and off the field".
"It would very disappointing if we would have to go to South Africa without Ryan but even more disappointing for Ryan himself. He's worked hard for it and deserves to be at the World Cup."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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