Although only 27-years-old, John Obi Mikel is one of the most experienced players in the Nigerian squad.
He first rose to prominence in 2005 when the then-18-year-old John Obi Mikel was awarded the Silver Ball at the FIFA World Cup U-20 Netherlands 2005. The only player at the tournament considered better than the Flying Eagles midfielder was a certain Lionel Messi.
Mikel was described in the tournament's official report as an outstanding player with good vision, who can dictate pace and launch his side's attacks. Fast-forward nine years, and the authors have been proven right, even though Mikel is asked to do far less for his star-studded club side Chelsea than he is with Nigeria, where he has long been thought of as having the potential to change the national team's fortunes.
In fact, despite an up-and-down history with the Super Eagles, Mikel has been a key inspiration behind Nigeria's resurgence under coach Stephen Keshi. He was a cool but driving presence in Nigeria's midfield as they won their third CAF Africa Cup of Nations last year, finally fulfilling all of his promise as an all-action midfielder that could not only stop opponents, but create chances quickly in the other direction.
In 2010, a knee injury forced Mikel out of Nigeria's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ squad, so he is particularly eager to perform well in Brazil and showcase his talents. Mikel has won just about everything there is to win with Chelsea, including the Premier League, the FA Cup, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Champions League. He described winning the latter as the "best night of my life”, but a run deep into the World Cup is sure to lay claim to that title.