Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro has been ruled out of Euro 2008 after tearing ligaments in his left ankle during training.
The Real Madrid defender collided with Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini in Italy’s first practice session at their Austrian base of Baden.
After the incident, Cannavaro laid on the pitch for about 20 minutes before being stretchered off and taken to a local hospital for tests.
Fiorentina's Alessandro Gamberini has been called up as his replacement by coach Roberto Donadoni, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon likely to take over the captaincy.
The 23-man squad and the rest of the Italian delegation had been in Austria for just six hours when Cannavaro suffered his injury.
"The news we feared was confirmed in Baden late on Monday evening," a statement from the Italian Football Federation read.
"Fabio Cannavaro will say goodbye to our European adventure, before it has even begun.
"The captain has suffered torn ligaments, which happened the moment his foot made contact with the ground. His ankle twisted awkwardly."
Cannavaro, 34, capped 116 times, led Italy to 2006 World Cup glory in Germany, winning the World Player of the Year award.
His absence is a serious setback for the Azzurri, who are in Euro 2008's 'Group of Death' with France, the Netherlands and dark horses Romania.
However, the emergence of centre back Andrea Barzagli, who has produced some assured displays for the national team in the last year, will slightly cushion the blow.
Defender Marco Materazzi is also in the squad while Chiellini and Christian Panucci can play at centre back rather than full back.
After a superb campaign with Fiorentina, Gamberini was disappointed not to have made Donadoni’s initial squad for the tournament, but he now gets his chance.
The World champions open their Group C campaign against the Dutch next Monday in Berne, Switzerland.