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Injuries could force Ghana to shuffle the pack

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac has described as a "disaster" the injury crisis that threatens to hamper his team's prospects at the World Cup finals.

Rajevac came through a similar dilemma with flying colors at the African Nations Cup in January but is less confident of pulling off the same feat again against much more formidable opposition at the World Cup.

Injuries could deprive Ghana of their three acknowledged leaders, including the inspirational Michael Essien who has been battling with knee and ankle complaints over the last nine months.

Also in jeopardy are captain Stephen Appiah, who has played a limited number of games over the last two years because of a serious knee complaint, and John Mensah, the towering defender known as 'the Rock', whose long-standing back problems have led to a seemingly endless run of niggling muscle complaints.

"It's a dire situation because the three have been our captains," said the Serbian-born coach in an interview with the German sports magazine Kicker last week. "I want to put together a powerful mix of young and experienced players."

The trio were among eight regulars out of action at the Nations Cup in Angola.

Ghana unexpectedly overcame that adversity to finish runners-up, with Rajevac successfully drawing from the pool of talented under-20 players who had been crowned world champions three months earlier.

The injury crisis has not abated, however, and things look much more difficult this time, with Ghana in Group D alongside Germany, Australia and Serbia.

"The group is hard but the World Cup is not a request program," said Rajevac.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Clare Fallon)