London – Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has expressed sympathy for England forward Theo Walcott after he was ruled out of this year's World Cup with a serious knee injury.

Walcott, 24, damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Arsenal's FA Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, with his club announcing on Monday that he will be unavailable for around six months.

As well as missing the rest of the season, it means that Walcott is all but certain to miss the World Cup in Brazil, which begins in June.

It is the latest chapter in a story of World Cup misery for Walcott, who was called up for the 2006 tournament at the age of 17 but did not play and was then left out for the 2010 tournament by coach Fabio Capello.

Wright, who sat out the 1998 World Cup in France due to a hamstring injury, told BBC Radio Five Live on Tuesday: “As a player, it's devastating. I missed out on a World Cup in '98

through injury and it's something that you never truly get over.

“In the end I didn't actually get to play in any, but for someone like Theo who has been there but not played – but he has been there Ä for this one I feel he would have been ready.”

Former England striker Michael Owen, who sustained a serious knee injury during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, also voiced support for Walcott.

“Shocking news regarding Theo Walcott,” Owen wrote on Twitter. “I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he returns next season as good as ever.”

Walcott's injury could open the door for James Milner, Andros Townsend, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana or Aaron Lennon, all of whom will hope to take his place on the right flank of England's attack. – Sapa-AFP