Pretoria - He's only been in charge of the side for less than two years but Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac says he is ready to take the Black Stars to the second round of this year's FIFA World Cup.
Ghana is taking on the minnows Serbia in a Group D match to be played at Pretoria's Loftus Versveld Stadium on Sunday night. "This World Cup will be a bit unusual because I will be playing against my country and I'm the Coach of Ghana but as a professional I will do my best to ensure my team wins," said Rajevac, who is a Serbian national. He was speaking during Ghana's first press conference at Loftus on Saturday night.
Four-time African champion and 1992 Olympic bronze medalists, Ghanaians, historically, are one of Africa's strongest teams. But they are approaching their first World Cup in South Africa without their top player and Chelsea striker Michael Essien, who is still nursing an injury.
But Rajevac said Ghana will have to beat Serbia without the star.
"Well Michael is not here and we just have to live with that and with the players we have I'm sure we will do our best without him," Rajevac said.
Ghanaian Captain Stephen Apriah is aware that the tournament being played in Africa, players will be no doubt under tremendous pressure to fare well. "The World Cup is in Africa so people are expecting a lot from us," said Apria, who hasn't had a lot of game time lately.
The Black Stars were the only African side to advance to Round 2 of the World Cup in 2006, the sixth consecutive occasion an Africa nation had progressed beyond the group stages of a finals tournament.
They guaranteed their place in the finals after going unbeaten through their opening four matches of the final round.
They did not concede a goal in the group until a shock 1-nil defeat at Benin, but that came after they had already qualified.
The key stretch for the West Africans came in June 2009 when they won 2-nil away to both Mali and Sudan, with Germany 2006 veteran Matthew Amoah scoring a goal in the first match and both in the second. Ironically, Ghana were shakier in the previous round of qualifying, only topping the group on goal difference over Gabon and Libya after losing a match to both teams.