Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will miss England's September Euro 2008 qualifiers after suffering a hairline fracture of his left foot on Sunday.
Rooney will miss England's Euro 2008 qualifiers in September
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes Rooney will be out until October after the 21-year-old was injured in the Premier League opener with Reading.
"We expect him to be out for two months," said Ferguson.
That rules Rooney out of the key home matches against Israel on 8 September and then Russia four days later.
It could also leave a question mark over his participation in England's qualifiers against Estonia on 13 October and Russia on 17 October, although Ferguson added: "To be on the safe side, we would say it is going to be two months but hopefully he can come back quicker.
"It's a bad blow for England and I'm disappointed for England coach Steve McClaren. I spoke to him last night and I could sense the disappointment. It is a bad blow for him.
"They have options for the games against Israel and Russia in September. They should cope without him. I would expect him to be back for October."
It's devastating for England and Steve McClaren, if he is going to be out for that amount of time
Former England striker Alan Shearer
Despite Ferguson's optimism, Rooney's absence will be a major concern for McClaren, whose side currently lie fourth in qualifying group E and face a struggle to qualify for Euro 2008.
They need to finish in the top two to clinch a place at the finals.
Rooney will miss England's friendly against Germany at Wembley on 22 August.
He suffered his latest injury when Reading defender Michael Duberry accidentally stood on his foot towards the end of the first half of the match at Old Trafford.
Although United manager Ferguson initially played down the seriousness of the injury, a scan confirmed the fracture.
Dr Craig Panther, medical officer to Fulham and specialist sports doctor at Pure Sports Medicine, told BBC Sport that he was not surprised that Rooney was facing a recovery period of two months.
"A hairline fracture is a fracture that hasn't actually moved, so the bone is still in a good alignment, which is a good sign for his recovery," he said.
"He must protect himself from further injury - possibly using the aircast boot he used last time - but it sounds like he will not need an operation on this one.
"However, you are still looking at some sort of protection for at least six weeks and possibly eight, depending on how things go.
"It's important he maintains his cardio-vascular fitness in the meantime, with lots of cycling and swimming, that sort of thing."
Rooney's injury adds to a host of injury concerns for England coach McClaren ahead of the vital qualifiers.
McClaren has a striker shortage, with Michael Owen also struggling with injury and Peter Crouch suspended for the Israel game.
In any event, Crouch did not even make the squad for Liverpool's opening game of the season, while Spurs duo Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe were restricted to substitute roles.
ROONEY'S PAST FOOT INJURIES
24 June 2004
The then Everton player breaks metatarsal in right foot on international duty at Euro 2004
Returns on 28 September to make Manchester United debut96 days out
29 April 2006
Fractures metatarsal in right foot while on club duty for United against Chelsea
Returns on 15 June at the World Cup after weeks of fevered speculation about his availability and fitness47 days out
At the back, skipper John Terry is doubtful because of knee ligament damage, Gary Neville has a persistent ankle problem, Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King have recently undergone knee surgery and Wayne Bridge has had surgery on his hip.
Meanwhile, David Beckham has yet to play a full game for his new club Los Angeles Galaxy.
Rooney has broken a metatarsal bone in his foot on two previous occasions.
He was injured in England's quarter-final against hosts Portugal on 24 June at Euro 2004 and did not return for 96 days afterwards.
And he suffered a similar injury playing for United against Chelsea on 29 April 2006.
Although he returned 47 days later - when he played for England as a substitute in the match against Trinidad and Tobago - there were doubts over his fitness throughout the 2006 World Cup.
Speaking on the BBC's Match of the Day 2 about Rooney's potential eight-week absence, former England captain Alan Shearer said: "It's really disappointing news. It was a nothing tackle to be honest.
"But it is devastating news for England and Steve McClaren."
Meanwhile, United will be devastated to lose Rooney at the start of the season, with fellow forwards Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha short of match fitness.
Winger Nani replaced Rooney in the second half against Reading, with boss Ferguson forced to play defender John O'Shea as an emergency striker.
And Ferguson revealed afterwards that he felt Rooney's absence cost the reigning Premier League champions victory.
Ferguson said after United's draw with Reading: "It was a painful blow and Wayne could not really stand on his foot."