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01.02.2006 Football News

Duya blames absences for exit

By Reuters

ISMAILIA, Egypt, Jan 31 -- Coach Ratomir Dujkovic blamed absentees for Ghana's African Nations Cup exit after a 2-1 defeat in Group D by Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

Ghana, who bowed out on goal difference, became the third team after Togo and Angola to fall at the first hurdle in Egypt after qualifying for the World Cup in Germany

However, Dujkovic has lost influential Chelsea's central midfielder Michael Essien, holding player Sulley Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan before these finals.

Midfielder Laryea Kingston was then banned for four matches after a red card against Senegal and forward Mathew Amoah missed Tuesday's game through injury.

"We didn't have our best team as everyody knows, without Essien, Muntari, Gyan and today Amoah, it was very difficult to play any better than we did," Dujkovic told reporters.

"It was very tough, very difficult for us because we were under pressure to win or draw and Zimbabwe played without any pressure and that was an opportunity for them.

"Maybe today we didn't play as people expect but generally speaking Ghana is a World Cup team.

"The World Cup is very far away so we have time to prepare our team...and we will be stronger than we were today."

Nigeria finished top of the group after a 2-1 win over Senegal, who ike Ghana and Zimbawe finished on three points.

Zimbabwe coach Charles Mhlauri tried to look on the bright side of his young team's last-gasp elimination after registering their first win.

"Unfortunately, I have to accept it," he said. "We left it until late, but hopefully next time will be come back much stronger.

"It's important to win at least and it shows that we were just unlucky to qualify -- apart from Nigeria the three other teams won one game each."