Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac insists Michael Essien's involvement in the FIFA World Cup™ is vital, not just to his country but to the tournament itself. The 27-year-old Chelsea midfielder missed a large part of last season due to knee and ankle injuries and has hardly played any competitive football since December, making him a major doubt for the trip to South Africa. But his national boss is hoping he will be fit.
"Essien is an important player, not only for Ghana but for the World Cup," Rajevac told the Ghana Football Association (GFA) website. "He is one of the best players in the world and the World Cup is an assembly of the best. Ghana wants him there, the organisers want him there and the world wants him there. Argentina is going and people want to see (Lionel) Messi, Portugal is going and people want to see (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Ghana is going and people want to see Essien."
Essien, who was due to meet officials from both club and country in London this week, will reportedly link up with the Black Stars at their French base camp on Friday. Rajevac revealed that he was expecting Essien to be fit, but insisted that he did have contingency plans.
"I am confident he can make it," he said. "But if he doesn't make it we have to do without him. There are other young and hungry players who will be equally passionate to play."
The Serbian coach is also awaiting news on defender John Mensah and striker Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, who are yet to be passed 100% fit for the June 11 to July 11 competition. But he is confident, adding: "I hope all (injuries) are cleared before (the World Cup) starts. Some are experiencing injuries. But the World Cup is the best show for the best players in the world. I hope all will come. The competition gathers the best squads and the best players will be there. Once the players are fit, they will come and some would make a big mark."
Meanwhile, midfielder Stephen Appiah has described his return to the national fold as being like a trial. The Bologna player, who led the west Africans at the last World Cup four years ago, has struggled to hold down a regular place in the side over the past two years as injuries and a lack of club football took their toll. But after being selected in the 30-man preliminary squad for the training camp in Paris, he is now hoping to prove he is ready for a permanent return.
He told www.kickoffghana.com: "I have been telling some of the players we are going to play a justifier. I am going to train well and be a part of the team. I want to be in South Africa and I want to show the coach I am ready and I am fit and that this is a different Stephen Appiah.
"Even when I was playing always I knew I had to work hard to be in the Ghana squad. I didn't see myself as a regular choice so for me nothing has changed and that is what I want to do. I am going to love the competition. There were young ones who did brilliantly in Angola at the Nations Cup.
"Now we have to struggle first to be in the 23-man squad and then to earn a starting place." Ghana, who are making a second appearance at the finals, are in Group D, alongside Germany, Serbia and Australia.