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Freed from cave, but doctor’s orders bar Thai boys from World Cup final

This undated handout photo taken recently and released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 7, 2018 shows a group of Thai Navy divers in Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for the 12 boys and their football team coach trapped in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province. / AFP PHOTO / ROYAL THAI NAVY / Handout / XGTY 

The eight young footballers rescued from a cave in Thailand after more than two weeks underground are unlikely to be able to take up an offer to attend the World Cup final in Moscow, doctors said Tuesday.

The plight of the boys has prompted an outpouring of support from across the footballing world, from Brazil legend Ronaldo to England’s John Stones and Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi.

The emaciated and dishevelled “Wild Boars” were found after nine days of no contact on a small, muddy bank surrounded by water several kilometres inside the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.

All had come from football training when they first went into the cave on June 23, and were wearing football shirts when they were found — one wore an England top, another the colours of Real Madrid.

Images of the desperate group went viral, prompting FIFA boss Gianni Infantino to invite them to the July 15 showpiece in a gesture of solidarity from the footballing world and a dream to most teenage football fans.

But doctors poured cold water on the idea, saying the boys are in good shape but going through a slow and careful recovery that will see them stay in hospital for a week.

“They can’t go, they have to stay in hospital for a while,” Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, of the public health ministry, told reporters Tuesday when asked about the offer to attend Sunday’s match.

“They’re likely to watch it on television,” Jedsada Chokdamrungsuk, permanent-secretary of the Ministry of Public Health.

The boys were still far from being rescued at the time the offer was made and as of Tuesday afternoon only eight had been freed as the complex mission entered its final stage.

So far no major health problems have been detected but parents will only be able to visit the first four boys using protective gear and after a period of 48 hours.