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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Tudor injury major handicap
Tudor (l) v Bayern Munich
Tudor (l) is a pivotal player for club and country
Croatia coach Mirko Jozic has admitted that his team will be severly weakened by the absence of Igor Tudor at the World Cup.

The Juventus defender has undergone surgery on his injured ankle in Amsterdam and will be sidelined for six weeks.

The loss of the 23-year-old Juventus player, a pivotal figure in the Croatian defence, is a serious blow to his country's hopes of making an impression in Korea and Japan.

"He was and is one of our key players. His absence means we have lost some 20 per cent of our value.

"If we had some advantage over two of our World Cup rivals before, now I can no longer say that," Jozic said.

Tudor, a towering presence at the heart of the defence, has become an automatic choice in the Croatian national side, valued for his speed, clean tackling and threat going forward.

He picked up an ankle injury early in April but resumed playing two weeks ago as Juventus successfully chased the Serie A title in Italy.

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GROUP G
  P GD PTS
MEXICO 3 +2 7
ITALY 3 +1 4
CROATIA 3 -1 3
ECUADOR 3 -2 3

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