Michael Essien: 'Quality' Ghana can reach World Cup semi-finals

The midfielder says the strength in depth is "extremely good" for the 2010 quarter-finalists and believes the team is poised to make history in Brazil
Ghana midfielder Michael Essien believes the current squad is capable of challenging for the semifinal stage of the World Cup - and perhaps beyond.

Ghana, which became only the third African side to reach the quarterfinals when it accomplished the feat in 2010, has been pitted against USA, Portugal and Germany in a hugely tough group for this summer's finals, which begin next month.

Essien is set to be part of Kwesi Appiah's plans for the tournament in Brazil after missing the finals in 2010 with an injury, and the midfielder insists the current crop of Black Stars is capable of treading new ground for African nations on the global stage.

"The squad for this tournament is the best Ghana has to offer, and the quality in depth is extremely good, especially in midfield. We have multiple options in most positions which is always a plus for any side," Essien told FIFA.com. "Our initial aim will be to get out of the group into the second round, and then take it from there game by game. Who knows? We are certainly capable of going one better and making it to the semifinals or even finals. Anything can happen, but we are realistic enough to know we cannot aim that high from the start.

"Get the first objective of making the second round out of the way, and we will see how far we can go. It will be a journey without doubt, one we are looking forward to."

The 31-year-old AC Milan midfielder is set to make his second appearance at a World Cup finals, and he believes the side has come a long way since its campaign in Germany in 2006.

"I think we have done well for a nation that made its debut on the world stage in 2006," he said. "We did OK in our first outing and went one further in South Africa, and that says a lot about the players and the nation as a whole.

"Our desire to do well spurred us on in both World Cups, and I think it is fair to say we have done better than some of the nations who have been to three or more World Cups.

"Germany 2006 was very good, and we had a great time throughout the tournament," he continued. "We were a young, talented group with no World Cup experience and in some way that helped us because we were fearless and had nothing to lose. Throughout the qualifiers we played very well and bonded as a team, as brothers. When we got to Germany we were ready to deliver and we did our best. I am proud to be one of the first players to be at Ghana’s first World Cup."