KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, June 26 (Reuters) - Harry Kewell's surprise absence from Australia's World Cup defeat by Italy on Monday was the result of gout, his team mates told reporters.
Kewell, Man of the Match after scoring the equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Croatia that took his team into the second round for the first time, was diagnosed with the disease two days ago but it was kept secret in the hope he would recover in time.
It was clear Kewell would not play against the Italians when he arrived at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion walking with the aid of crutches and did not take his place in the warm-up.
'He's got gout on his foot,' midfielder Scott Chipperfield told reporters after the match. 'He's in a lot of pain, he can't walk, he's walking on crutches.
'It was disappointing for us tonight because we could have done with him in the last third (of the match)'
Australia captain Mark Viduka said the Socceroos had wanted to give Kewell until the last minute to play in the match but ran out of time.
'People say it's a 24-hour, 48-hour thing and we were hoping it would be alright,' said the striker.
'(Assistant coach) Graham Arnold had that when we were in (the training) camp and he was alright in 24 hours but Harry woke up this morning and was still struggling.'
Gout is a painful form of arthritis that is caused by a build up of acid crystals in joints, most commonly the big toe.
Kewell, who plays his club football in England with Liverpool, had come into the World Cup under an injury cloud because of a groin injury he suffered in the FA Cup final.
However, he proved to be one of Australia's best players, scoring a vital goal 11 minutes from the end against Croatia.