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Humble Ghana coach realises World Cup dream

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac lacks the sharp tongue of Sir Alex Ferguson, the charisma of Jose Mourinho and the sartorial elegance of Fabio Capello.

But there was no happier coach in the world last weekend than the 55-year-old Serb after ensuring Ghana became the first African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
It was the definitive answer to domestic critics unhappy with his faltering English and zero Africa coaching experience when put in charge of the famous ‘Black Stars’ last year.

The biggest claim to fame of the former defender was playing for and coaching ex-European champions Red Star Belgrade and his succession to flamboyant Frenchman Claude Le Roy stirred a Ghanaian media storm.
World Cup qualifying losses at middleweights Gabon and Libya meant a place in the final phase was secured only in the last round with a tense home win over little Lesotho.

Ghana went to Ivory Coast last February as strong favourites to capture the first African Nations Championship for home-based footballers and a shock 2-0 final loss to DR Congo provided his critics with more ammunition.

Rajevac and Ghana Football Association officials refused to panic and after a laboured 1-0 win over Benin last March when the final World Cup phase kicked off, the ‘Black Stars’ soared to unexpected heights.

Away victories in Mali and Sudan and a home win over Sudan last Sunday gave the four-time African Nations Cup winners an unassailable seven-point lead and assured a second consecutive World Cup appearance.

The Serb refused to turn on his detractors, preferring to celebrate a unique Ghana_Serbia double as compatriot Ratomir Dujkovic steered the ‘Black Stars’ to the 2006 World Cup, where they performed best of the five African qualifiers.

As football frenzy gripped the west African country, Europe_based stars reiterated their support for the humble coach with an obsessive work ethic and exhaustive attention to detail.
Fulham defender John Pantsil said the Serb reads the game brilliantly and NAC Breda striker Matthew Amoah talked of soaring confidence levels within the national team.

The grand old man of the squad, midfielder Stephen Appiah who once played for Italian giants Juventus but is now clubless, stressed that Rajevac was always the best man for the job.
“Milovan has coached consistently over the past decade, turning small clubs into successful ones, and I knew he would succeed with Ghana provided the necessary support was provided.
“Criticism of him not having worked on the continent was unwarranted and designed to break the morale of the players,” claimed the national team skipper.

Rajevac stresses the collective, refusing to single out stars even if it is hardly a secret that Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien drives the ‘Black Stars’ and is a huge influence over his team_mates.
“There will always be special players in my team, who have to do something different at difficult times. They play special roles for Ghana,” he said without a hint of a name.
“If the players do what I expect and say, we will not only be part of the 2010 World Cup, but will also achieve something momentous in South Africa,” added the coach.


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