Ghana coach still reeling from setback to Essien

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The Independent Football

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac is still coming to terms with news that his star player Michael Essien will not be fit in time for the World Cup.

The Chelsea midfielder was ruled out of the finals in South Africa after it was discovered on Thursday that a knee injury suffered at the Africa Cup of Nations in January is taking longer to heal than initially expected.

His absence is a major blow for the Black Stars and their Serbian coach, who said: "I am really disappointed that Michael Essien will not be at the World Cup for Ghana as a player. He is an important player on and off the field, but we can't use him this time.

"Essien brings lots of advantages. He brings so many things to the team and always gives us options. It's most unfortunate.''

Essien, 27, missed a large part of the recently concluded season due to the same knee problem, as well as an ankle injury, and has hardly played any competitive football since December. He is not the only player in the Ghana squad who had been struggling with injury – defender John Mensah and midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu are also major concerns for the west Africans.

With Essien now out of the picture, Rajevac is desperate for the other players in his squad to stand up and be counted. He added: "I hope and believe that the other players would give of their best. We want to achieve with this team and must work hard. We will focus on the task ahead and hope we have a good World Cup."