Friday, July 25, 2014

Essien: Ghana 'realistic' about WCup challenge

Ghana 'realistic' about tough World Cup group, Essien says as squad starts preps
Posted on May 22, 2014 at 6:52 a.m.

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana’s players are “realistic enough” to know that they have a much tougher World Cup challenge this time, midfielder Michael Essien said Thursday.

Ghana made the quarterfinals and barely missed out on the semifinals in South Africa four years ago after a last-minute penalty miss in extra time and a shootout loss to Uruguay. A place in the last four would have made Ghana the first African team to go that far at a World Cup.

Just making the second round is a huge task this year.

In Brazil, Ghana faces Germany, Portugal and the United States in Group G. Only the top two teams advance.

“Anything can happen but we are realistic enough to know we cannot aim that high from the start,” Essien said in an interview on the FIFA website. “Get the first objective of making the second round out of the way and we will see how far we can go.”

Aware of the expectation on Africa’s best-performing team in 2010, the AC Milan midfielder said the Ghana squad is “certainly capable” of making history for the continent and reaching the semifinals in Brazil. But it would be a major surprise if Ghana makes the knockout round and progresses ahead of either Germany or Portugal, the two countries ranked just behind world champion Spain.

Ghana’s midfield is its strength, Essien said, where he could combine with AC Milan teammate Sulley Muntari, Marseille’s Andre Ayew, Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah and Schalke’s Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Essien will likely be the lynchpin. He missed the last World Cup with injury and hasn’t played in a major tournament for his country for more than four years.

The squad gathered for a training camp in Accra this week and will play a farewell game on Friday against a local team before traveling to Europe, the U.S. and then Brazil.

Ghana faces the Netherlands and South Korea in warm-up matches before opening at the World Cup against the Americans on June 16. Ghana beat the U.S. at the last two World Cups.

 In this Thursday, July 17, 2014 photo construction workers build a commercial complex in Springfield, Ill. The state jobless rate has dropped for four straight months and is at its lowest point since October 2008. Illinois has lagged the country as a whole in its recovery from recession, and the state's unemployment rate has been among the worst in the country for months. Thursday's report provides signs that Illinois may be starting to catch up. Construction companies added 3,500 jobs in June, an increase of 1.8 percent. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Updated on July 20, 2014 at 11:14 a.m.
 Germany's Toni Kroos (18) rises above Argentina's Lionel Messi (10) to head the ball during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Updated on July 17, 2014 at 3:52 a.m.
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