MOSCOW (AP) Russia striker Alexander Kokorin is expected to miss the World Cup in his home country because of a serious knee injury.
Kokorin’s club team, Zenit St. Petersburg, said he tore the cruciate ligaments in his right knee in the opening minutes of a Europa League last-16 game against Leipzig on Thursday. He was carried off on a motorized cart in the eighth minute. Zenit lost 3-2 on aggregate.
Kokorin will fly to Rome for further medical treatment, including likely surgery, the team added.
It’s the third serious knee injury this year for a Russian national team player after defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgy Dzhikiya both suffered injuries likely to rule them out of the World Cup.
The 26-year-old Kokorin has played 48 games for Russia, scoring 12 goals, and his absence leaves FC Krasnodar’s Fyodor Smolov as Russia’s likely top striker for the tournament. He’s the joint second highest-scoring player in the Russian Premier League season with 10 goals for Roberto Mancini’s Zenit, behind only Smolov with 12.
Russia plays Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay in the group stage of the tournament, which starts June 14.
Kokorin briefly fell out of favor with the Russian national team when he and midfielder Pavel Mamaev were filmed partying with champagne in Monaco shortly after Russia’s group-stage exit from the 2016 European Championships.
Mamaev has not played for Russia since, and Kokorin was not picked for the Confederations Cup last summer, which he said came as a wake-up call that he needed to work harder.
Kokorin was also reported to have an uneasy relationship with Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov after he and fellow forward Artyom Dzyuba posted a picture online showing him holding a hand over his top lip in apparent imitation of Cherchesov’s moustache.