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Ghana, preparing for World Cup opener against US, picks Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng

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ACCRA, Ghana - Ghana has picked Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng for a preliminary 26-man roster as the Black Stars prepare to play the United States in their World Cup opener next month.

The group will be trimmed to 23 after an exhibition against the Netherlands on May 31.

Essien and Boateng were selected Monday after returning to international soccer last year. They had both asked for time away from the national team.

Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Sulley Muntari were also included and are set to play in their third consecutive World Cups.

The Black Stars were the best-performing African team at the 2010 tournament, reaching the quarterfinals and just missing out on the semifinals after a penalty-kicks loss to Uruguay.

Ghana eliminated the U.S. at the last two World Cups. Germany and Portugal also are in a Group G.

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