Nigeria will be lost without Mikel
The carnage continues.
The Nigeria Football Federation confirmed that Mikel, a star midfielder with English outfit Chelsea, won't be able to play in South Africa because of a knee problem.
And with that goes Nigeria hopes of achieving anything at the World Cup (read: a spot in the quarter-finals).
Like Ghana's loss of captain and midfield general Michael Essien, the absence of Mikel is a crushing blow for Nigeria, both on and off the field.
Mikel first made headlines at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland. In 2005, he played for Nigeria at the FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands (they lost to Argentina in the final) before graduating to the Nigerian senior national team later than same year in a friendly against Libya.
Ever since then, he's been an influential two-way player for the Super Eagles. Mikel's size (six-feet-two-inches) and ball handling abilities have made him a top-tier defensive midfielder, reminiscent of former Chelsea teammate Claude Makelele.
But he also boosts the attack with his solid distribution skills and on-field vision: he set up one goal and scored another in Nigeria's 2-0 win over Zimbabwe at the 2006 African Cup of Nations.
An automatic starter for Nigeria, Mikel will have to watch from the sidelines, which means the Super Eagles will now have to find someone to take his place.
None of Nigeria's bench midfielders, including Ideye Brown (the player drafted in to take Mikel's spot on the team) come close to matching the Chelsea star's quality, drive and commitment on the field.
Without one of their best player, Nigeria's task of making it out of Group B just became even more difficult.
About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBCSports.ca whose chief love is soccer.
John served as senior editor of CBC's 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup website and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. His work on CBC Sports Online's Euro 2004 site earned him a CBC.ca Award of Excellence.
He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College.