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Soccer News of Friday, 1 February 2008

Source: AFP

Essien skips training for CAF ceremony

Michael Essien was noticeable by his absence at Ghana's training session here on Friday, coach Claude Le Roy having released the Chelsea star for important business in Togo.

Essien is up for the African Player of the Year award being held in Lome, a 15 minute hop by plane from the Ghana capital.

Le Roy had initially refused Essien permission to attend the Confederation of African Football-backed award which is being held 48 hours before Sunday's quarter-final with Nigeria.

Explaining his u-turn the Frenchman told AFP: "I didn't want to let him go but player power won the day! Michael's teammates persuaded me to change my mind."

Strikers Junior Agogo and Asamoah Gyan had skipped training on Thursday, Agogo because he was feeling unwell and Gyan because of a troubled groin.

Both were present Friday, although Gyan trained seperately.

"I haven't trained with the team for two days now but I think I'll be fit to play on Sunday," said the 22-year-old Udinese forward.

Le Roy was also optimistic about Gyan's chances of recovering in time.

"He's the only player with a slight doubt but he should be fine."

Nottingham Forest striker Agogo is relishing the idea of taking on Ghana's regional neighbours.

"There's going to be a lot of passion, a lot of hard tackling, but we're ready, the boys are buzzing to get the game started."

Nigeria arrived in Accra in the afternoon after the three hour drive from Kumasi with a newfound confidence after their 2-0 win over Benin on Tuesday clinched their place in the last eight.

Hopes are high in the team of avenging last year's 4-1 friendly loss to the Black Stars in London.

"It's going to be Black Sunday for the Stars," predicted Nigeria's press officer, Peterside Idah.