- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) - 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.

“Once the players are all fit we hope to deliver,” coach Kwesi Appiah said. “Every coach has a target and l believe in my players and the national team, but l cannot tell where we will get to. The only thing l can say is we will not disgrace Ghanaians.”

Essien missed the 2010 World Cup because he was injured. Boateng quit the national team duties in 2011 but was recalled toward the end of the World Cup qualifying last year.

Ghana will play in its third straight World Cup in Brazil.

The Black Stars play the Netherlands in Rotterdam on May 31 and South Korea in Miami on June 9 before heading to Brazil.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Stephen Adams, Fatawu Dauda (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset, Norway)

Defenders: Harrison Afful (Esperance, Tunisia), Jerry Akaminko (Kisehirspor, Turkey), John Boye (Rennes, France), Samuel Inkoom (Platanias, Greece), Jonathan Mensah (Evian, France), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege, Belgium), Jeffrey Schlupp (Leicester, England), Rashid Sumaila (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa)

Midfielders: David Accam (Helsingborg, Sweden), Afriyie Acquah (Parma, Italy), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough, England), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese, Italy), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus, Italy), Christian Atsu (Vitesse, Netherlands), Andre Ayew (Marsellie, France), Michael Essien (AC Milan, Italy), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar, Russia), Wakaso Mubarak (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan, Italy)

Forwards: Jordan Ayew (Sochaux, France), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke, Germany), Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain, United Arab Emirates) Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes, France)