Late arriving Essien hinders Ghana

If Ghana are to topple pre-tournament favourites Côte d'Ivoire in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations on Friday they will probably have to do so without key midfielder Michael Essien.

The Chelsea star and Ghana captain's arrival in Angola has been delayed due to the big freeze in Britain and he is not due to join up the Black Stars now until Wednesday. Another pivotal member of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers' squad, Rosenborg midfielder Anthony Annan, is definitely unavailable having picked up a left knee injury.

"Annan won't be ready for Friday and Essien doesn't join us until tomorrow morning," Ghana's Serb coach Milovan Rajevac said on Tuesday in Cabinda. He added: "We want to win this competition but this first game is going to be interesting pitting our very young team against one of the best and most experienced sides in Africa."

Rennes striker Asamoah Gyan said they would miss the pair for the game against Didier Drogba's Côte d'Ivoire, who were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by group minnows Burkina Faso in their opening game on Monday. "We knew it though and we're ready. Before, our strength was in midfield, now we're going to have to see."

Essien's absence would be a huge blow for four time Africa Cup of Nations winners' Ghana who have had to contend with a string of injuries to key players with central defenders John Pantsil and John Mensah and midfielders Stephen Appiah and Laryea Kingston all ruled out.