ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana picked Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng in a preliminary 26-man World Cup squad on Monday.
The group will be trimmed to a final 23-man squad after a friendly game against the Netherlands on May 31, the Ghana Football Association said.
AC Milan’s Essien and Schalke’s Boateng were named after returning to international football last year. They had both asked for time away from the national team in the years after the last World Cup.
Ghana captain and striker Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Sulley Muntari were also included and are set to play in their third consecutive World Cups.
Ghana was the best-performing African team at the 2010 tournament, reaching the quarterfinals and just missing out on the semifinals after a penalty shootout loss to Uruguay in South Africa.
Ghana will play the United States, Germany and Portugal in Group G in Brazil, and opens its campaign against the U.S. in Natal on June 16. Ghana beat the U.S. in the second round of the last World Cup.
Coach Kwesi Appiah didn’t reveal what his target was for the team that nearly became the first African nation into the last four of a World Cup four years ago.
“Once the players are all fit we hope to deliver,” Appiah said. “Every coach has a target and l believe in my players and the national team, but l cannot tell where we will get to. The only thing l can say is we will not disgrace Ghanaians.”
Essien missed the 2010 World Cup through injury and is likely facing his last chance to play at the showpiece in Brazil. Boateng stepped down from national team duties in 2011 but was recalled to Ghana’s squad toward the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign late last year. Ghana will play in its third straight World Cup in Brazil.
Appiah also picked Marseille’s Andre Ayew, Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah and young attacking midfielder Wakaso Mubarak. Defender Jeffrey Schlupp, who plays for England’s Leicester City, was the biggest surprise in the initial squad.
The GFA announced Monday that Ghana would play the Netherlands in Rotterdam on May 31 and South Korea in Miami on June 9 in its final World Cup warm-ups before facing Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team in Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Adam Kwarasey, Fatawu Dauda, Stephen Adams.
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom, Daniel Opare, Harrison Afful, Jeffrey Schlupp, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Jerry Akaminko, Rashid Sumaila.
Midfielders: Michael Essien, Rabiu Mohammed, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari, Albert Adomah, Wakaso Mubarak, Christian Atsu, David Accam, Andre Ayew, Afriyie Acquah.
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Abdul Majeed Waris, Jordan Ayew.