Ghana picked Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng for a preliminary 26-man roster as the Black Stars prepare to play the United States in their World Cup opener next month.

The group will be trimmed to 23 after an exhibition game against the Netherlands on May 31.

Essien and Boateng were selected Monday after returning to international soccer last year. Both had asked for time away from the national team.

Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Sulley Muntari were included and are set to play in their third consecutive World Cups.

The Black Stars were the best-performing African team at the 2010 tournament, reaching the quarterfinals and just missing out on the semifinals after a penalty-kicks loss to Uruguay.

Ghana eliminated the United States in the last two World Cups. Germany and Portugal also are in a Group G

Youthful England

Only six England players in Brazil will have previous World Cup experience since Roy Hodgson has turned to younger players who have impressed him with their spirited Premier League performances.

The oldest squad member is midfielder Frank Lampard, who will turn 36 next month; the youngest is 18-year-old defender Luke Shaw, who just made his international debut in March. Eleven members of the 23-man squad have made 10 or fewer appearances for England, which opens its campaign in Brazil against Italy on June 14.

"Circumstances will prove whether the decision to take the younger player was right or not," Hodgson said.

In a squad captained by 33-year-old Steven Gerrard, fellow midfielder Lampard made the cut while Michael Carrick, who went to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, is only on the standby list after a lackluster season with Manchester United.

In the search for dynamism, Hodgson is taking 19-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, a 20-year-old Everton midfielder, despite their having only five appearances combined.

Russia makes picks

Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak was included in Russia coach Fabio Capello's preliminary squad for the World Cup.

Pogrebnyak made the 30-man list despite not having played for Russia since Capello took over as coach in 2012. But there was no recall for former Arsenal forward Andrei Arshavin or former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.

The 30-man squad will be trimmed to a final 23 by June 2, 10 days before play starts in Brazil.

Russia, the 2018 World Cup host, will face South Korea, Belgium, and Algeria in the group stage in Brazil.