Ferdinand and Drogba struck with injury blows

THE World Cup is still six days away but the build-up claimed two high-profile victims yesterday – England captain Rio Ferdinand and star Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba.

Ferdinand was ruled out of the tournament a week before England's opening game after suffering knee ligament damage at the team's training ground near the city of Rustenburg.

A continent away in Switzerland, Drogba told team-mate Kolo Toure he was out of the World Cup after breaking his right elbow in a 2-0 friendly victory over Japan.

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However, the Ivory Coast Football Federation clung on to the hope that their key man could yet play a part in the tournament. "He's not at all out of the World Cup," said an Ivory Coast spokesman. "He can still play."

There was no such hope for Ferdinand. He was preparing to fly home last night after he was ruled out of the entire tournament with a knee injury.

Ferdinand suffered the injury in training yesterday morning and was sent straight to the local Netcare Fearncrest Hospital for a scan. Both doctors travelling with the England team assessed the severity of the problem and came to the same conclusion; the Manchester United man would play no part in the competition.

Tottenham Hotspur's Michael Dawson was contacted and boarded a plane to replace the central defender. Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard will now lead the England team as captain.

The loss is a grievous blow for coach Fabio Capello, who rated Ferdinand as one of the most influential players in his squad as well as a lynchpin in his defence. "It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio," said Capello.

"It was an accidental injury in training, but had nothing to do with the pitch."