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Ghana benches two of its best players vs. U.S.

Derek Boateng and Michael Essien

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Derek Boateng and Michael Essien celebrate after the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 match between Ghana and USA played at the Stadium Nuernberg on June 22, 2006 in Nuremberg, Germany. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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NATAL, Brazil – The United States gained a good bit of fortune in the hours before its World Cup opener against Ghana when it was announced that two of the Black Stars' best players are not in the starting lineup, according to Ghana's team website.

Michael Essien and Kevin Prince Boateng were not listed in the starting lineup on, although no explanation was provided. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

[Related: Klinsmann sounds more confident on eve of opener]

Essien has been Ghana's most accomplished player the past decade in the European professional leagues, starring at Chelsea and Real Madrid. Boateng is a familiar name to American fans – he scored the first goal in Ghana's 2-1 victory over the United States in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. His physical presence has been a key to the Black Stars' attack.

The Americans will now get to at least start the game without having to deal with either player as they seek what coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called a critical victory.

[Photos: Gisele Bundchen to hand out World Cup trophy]

The U.S. is virtually the only team in the World Cup that has not dealt with any significant injuries heading in to the World Cup.

The game is set to begin at 7 p.m. local time (6 p.m. Eastern).

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