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France star stricken

Ribéry rocked by suspected serious injury

France versus Italy at the European championships was billed as the Franck Ribéry v Luca Toni showdown, but from a Bayern point of view, the match produced an early shock with potentially devastating repercussions for Germany’s most successful club.

Ribery fell awkwardly in a challenge with Gianluca Zambrotta after just nine minutes, twisting his left knee and landing heavily on the fully bent joint. Writhing in pain, the player was carried from the pitch on the Letzi-mobil stretcher cart after treatment lasting some three minutes. The Bayern star was transported straight to a Zurich hospital by ambulance on suspicion of a serious injury.

Long lay-off?

As of Wednesday morning a firm diagnosis had not been released, although pitchside reports claimed the Frenchman had suffered a suspected fracture of the lower leg and a twisted knee. Bayern and new coach Jürgen Klinsmann almost certainly face the worrying prospect of a lengthy spell without the services of their midfield superstar and celebrated crowd favourite.

In sharp contrast, fellow FCB man Toni enjoyed a thoroughly positive evening as the Italians won the re-run of the 2006 World Cup final 2-0, sealing a berth in the last eight courtesy of the Netherlands’ comfortable 2-0 victory over disappointing Romania in the group’s parallel fixture. Italy, who would have been packing for home today had the Romanians won, now meet Spain in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Toni earns penalty

A 30,585 capacity crowd at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich saw Andrea Pirlo open the scoring with a 25th-minute penalty after Eric Abidal felled Toni in the box, earning the France defender a straight red card to boot. Daniele de Rossi’s deflected free-kick on the hour wrapped up the points for the squadra azzurra as the ten-man French proved unable to compensate for the loss of Ribery’s attacking inspiration. Willy Sagnol spent the match on the subs’ bench as the 2000 European championships exited this summer’s tournament with just a single point on the board.

Goals continued to prove elusive for the normally prolific Toni as he failed to bury a string of presentable opportunities in the first half and saw a late drive hit the outside of the post. However, his thoughts will certainly now be with his friend Ribery as he anxiously awaits the verdict from hospital in Zurich.