Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry's alleged affair with his former partner, saying Thursday that his presence in the World Cup squad could be "divisive."
Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to continue playing for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of the Chelsea defender's affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published.
But Bridge's announcement — two days after Capello suggested the two could play together — leaves the Italian with problems over selection and team harmony three months before they travel to South Africa.
"I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks," Bridge said in a statement released by his lawyers.
"It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive."
After weeks of lurid headlines about his players — including first-choice left back Ashley Cole — Capello spoke Tuesday of the need to restore unity in the dressing room.
Could cause friction
But Bridge is apparently unable to forge a professional relationship with Terry. The rift could be on display Saturday if the pair don't shake hands in the pre-match formalities at Stamford Bridge when Manchester City plays Chelsea, the club Bridge left in 2009.
Terry's continuing presence in the England setup could also cause friction, with fellow squad members aware that the defender's alleged affair with the mother of Bridge's child forced his one-time friend to miss out on a major tournament.
Expressing sadness at his decision, Bridge's statement continued: "I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection.
"I have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa."
The Football Association backed Capello to ensure the fallout from the Terry-Bridge saga doesn't affect the squad at the World Cup.
"I believe that [Capello] has increased his footballing perception around the world as a great manager because ultimately a good decision on the matter [sacking Terry] was reached," FA chief executive Ian Watmore told Talk Sport radio. "If you want to have great team spirit then you need someone who can manage that and we have the world's best in Fabio dealing with these difficult decisions.
Need to fill back slot
"Fabio has to judge what's best for team spirit. We won't win in South Africa if we don't have that. But we should have confidence that we will have it and move on."
An immediate issue for Capello is filling the left back slot for Wednesday's friendly against Egypt, with first-choice Cole recovering from a broken ankle and uncertain whether he will be fit for England's World Cup opener against the United States on June 12.
"It leaves Capello with no tried and tested left backs, and that causes a slight problem," said former England defender Danny Mills, who played at the 2002 World Cup. "Ashley Cole, if all being well and his recovery time is as quick as we think it might be, might make it back for the end of the season.
"But it won't take an awful lot of that to be delayed slightly and for him to miss out too, so that makes this friendly and the next few England games very, very important."
Capello will use Wednesday's match to audition others in the position with the likeliest candidates being Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock.
Baines is yet to appear for the England senior side but has impressed for Everton this season, while Warnock's only international experience amounts to six minutes as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008.