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England’s Ferdinand Out; Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba Injured

England soccer team captain Rio Ferdinand will miss the World Cup with a leg injury and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba may not play after he hurt his arm.

Ferdinand, 31, injured ligaments in his left knee today during England’s first practice session in South Africa. The Manchester United defender underwent a scan and was ruled out for four to six weeks, England’s Football Association said on its website.

“It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio,” manager Fabio Capello said on the website. “It was an accidental injury in training, but had nothing to do with the pitch.”

The injuries to Drogba and Ferdinand come a week before the start of the world’s most watched sporting event in South Africa, and robs two of the bookmakers’s favorite teams of their captains. Chelsea’s Drogba was the top scorer in the English Premier League this past season, while Ferdinand overcame an earlier back injury to help Manchester United finish second.

Drogba, who plays for Chelsea of the English Premier League, broke his arm in a collision during an exhibition game against Japan today in Switzerland, the New York Times reported.

He has not yet been ruled out of the World Cup, which begins June 11, the Ivory Coast Football Federation said on its website. French sports newspaper L’Equipe earlier reported that Drogba said he would miss the tournament after sustaining the injury.

England is the fourth favorite to win the World Cup at Ladbrokes with 7-1 odds; the Ivory Coast is 10th favorite at 50-1 odds.

Michael Dawson will fly to South Africa tonight to replace Ferdinand on England’s squad. Steven Gerrard will serve as captain for the World Cup, the F.A. said.

Dawson, who was among the squad’s final cuts three days ago (on Tuesday), has never played for England. Ferdinand has made 78 appearances for the national team.

The injury is a blow to an England defense which has allowed goals in eight of its past nine games. Ledley King or Jamie Carragher are the likely contenders to join John Terry in central defense.

Ferdinand had recovered from back problems that plagued him during the last Premier League season. He was named captain in February after Capello stripped Terry of the role following media reports of marital infidelity.

England plays its first World Cup game against the U.S. on June 12.

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