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By ESPN Staff

Valeron's World Cup hopes shattered by knee injury

MADRID, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Juan Carlos Valeron's hopes of making Spain's squad for this year's World Cup were shattered on Sunday when the Deportivo Coruna midfielder tore the cruciate ligament in his left knee during a Primera Liga match.

The 30-year-old playmaker scored the opening goal and then won the penalty that led to Depor's second in a 2-2 draw against Real Mallorca at the Riazor but his night was ruined when he sustained the knee injury in the closing minutes.

Depor said Valeron, who has been back to his best form in recent weeks, would be out of action for six to eight months.

Valeron has won over 40 caps and played in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.

He lost his place in Luis Aragones's squad after a loss of form last season but appeared to be working his way back into the reckoning with a series of fine performances for his club.

Spain captain Raul and influential midfielder Xavi face a race against time to make the World Cup finals in Germany after sustaining serious knee injuries earlier this season.

Valeron will be difficult to replace, Deportivo Coruna coach Joaquin Caparros said.

'We will try to make sure his absence doesn't affect us, but it will be difficult,' Caparros was reported as saying on the Marca website.

'We will look within the club and we have time to look in the market before the end of January, but it will be tough to find someone with the same characteristics.

'He is important in the dressing room, and for the goals he scores. If he took penalties he would be the side's top scorer.'

The club said the Spain international, who has enjoyed a return to form under Caparros this season, would be sidelined for between six and eight months.

Valeron told reporters: 'These things happen in football and as you know it has already happened to various colleagues of mine.

'I hope the operation goes well because I want to get on with the recovery and get back to playing again as soon as possible.'

Although Valeron was dropped from Luis Aragones's Spain squads last year, he was being widely tipped to make a return in the run up to the World Cup finals in Germany.

He has won over 40 caps and played in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.

Spain captain Raul and influential midfielder Xavi are both recovering from serious knee injuries and fighting to return to action in time for the finals.