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Ghana takes positives from Afcon run

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac believes his youthful team’s fine run at the African Cup of Nations will help his players at the World Cup, despite Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Egypt in the final.

“Experience gained here will be crucial to our preparations at the World Cup,” Rajevac told the Associated Press after Egypt dashed his hopes of becoming the first foreign coach to lift the African Cup of Nations title with Ghana. “We now have enough time to prepare.”

Germany’s Otto Pfister came close to steering Ghana to success in 1992 but lost the final to Ivory Coast. Ghana took bronze on home soil under Frenchman Claude Le Roy two years ago.

Rajevac will face his native Serbia, Germany and Australia in Group D at the World Cup, which runs from June 11 to July 11.

Battling injuries to key players, Ghana beat host Angola and fellow World Cup qualifier Nigeria on its way to Sunday’s final.

But despite a dominating performance against Egypt, Rajevac’s side couldn’t win the country’s first continental championship in 28 years.

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien withdrew from the Ghana squad with a knee injury, while celebrated captain Stephen Appiah stayed in Bologna, also struggling with an injury. John Mensah and John Paintsil were also on Ghana’s injury list.

Enter Under-20 World Cup winners Emmanuel Badu and midfield partner Andre Ayew, son of Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele.

Displaying a blend of youthful enthusiasm and aggression, Badu and Ayew fought for possession in midfield against Egypt, helping little-known defenders Samuel Inkoom and Addy Lee thwart Egypt’s attack-minded game.

Goalkeeper Richard Kingson, playing with a hamstring injury, also helped steady the ship at the back. However, he was powerless to prevent Mohammed Gedo’s winner for Egypt in the 85th minute.

Though the younger players have made their case for a place in the World Cup squad, Rajevac did not close the door on his established stars.

“The young players are the future,” he said. “But they cannot play on their own. Egypt beat us today because they have plenty of experience.”

Egypt’s win gave it its seventh title, a record at the continental tournament.

Home-grown coach Charles Kumi Gyamfi is a three-time winner with Ghana, lifting the title in 1963, 1965 and 1982 while another local coach Fred Osam Duodu grabbed it in 1978. — Sapa-AP

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