Nigeria have suffered a blow less than a week away from the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with star midfielder John Obi Mikel having been left out of the squad because he did not want to aggravate a knee injury. The 23-year-old Chelsea star, who follows club team-mates Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and possibly Didier Drogba in missing out on the finals because of injury - is likely to be replaced by one of the seven players dropped from the squad at their training camp in England last Monday.

We have dropped Mikel from the World Cup squad after he told the team he did not want to put his career at risk.

Emmanuel Attah, Nigeria team official

"We have dropped Mikel from the World Cup squad after he told the team he did not want to put his career at risk as his knee injury has yet to fully heal after a recent surgery," disclosed top team official Emmanuel Attah. Mikel, capped over 30 times by his country, had been a huge doubt for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ as he last played for Chelsea in April.

Mikel was the last player to join up with the rest of the squad at their training camp in Essex, England, last week and in South Africa, he cut short his workout with the team on two consecutive days. He did not play in the team's two build-up games against Saudi Arabia and Colombia.

Nigeria have been drawn in Group B alongside two-time world champions Argentina, UEFA EURO 2004 winners Greece and 2002 FIFA World Cup™ semi-finalists South Korea. They play their first match on 12 June against Argentina.