The Black Stars hope a mix of youth and experience will help repeat their feat of four years ago
Milovan Rajevac bursts into a wide smile when the dilemma of selecting his World Cup squad is raised. In the wake of his makeshift team’s success in reaching the African Nations Cup Final, and the fact he must now match up that side with those players who missed the tournament in Angola, the Ghana coach describes it as “a nice problem”.
It has the west African country’s fans in a tizz too, with a growing belief that the Black Stars can at last emulate their achievement on their World Cup debut four years ago, when they reached the second round.
There was horror at first when December’s draw in Cape Town delivered Australia, Germany and Serbia as group opponents, but the confidence – indeed a brash expectation – is rapidly growing, particularly after Ghana wildly exceeded their own expectations and their youthful squad reached the Nations Cup Final against Egypt without key midfield trio Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien (who was injured after playing just 45 minutes of the tournament) and Sulley Muntari, along with defenders John Mensah and John Paintsil.
In their places, Rajevac turned to key members of the Under-20 side that three months earlier had won the World Youth Cup in Egypt.
When Essien was crocked by one of his own team-mates in training, Rajevac had a haunted look about him. But Samuel Inkoom, Isaac Vorsah and Kwadwo Asamoah stepped up to emerge as strong candidates for a starting place at the World Cup and presented Rajevac with several hard, but pleasing, choices ahead.
Ghana have lined up Holland as sparring partners before they head to South Africa and another strong performance might give them the cocky confidence that characterised their run in Angola in January.
The view from Ghana
“Ghana have what it takes to at least match their second round place at Germany 2006 in South Africa, especially if Michael Essien returns in good health and if Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah can carry their Nations Cup form into the games against Serbia, Australia and Germany. The fact a number of players – including Richard Kingson, John Paintsil, John Mensah, Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan and Matthew Amoah – have all had the experience of playing on that stage before could prove vital.”
Michael Oti Adjei, TV soccer show host
“It is the wish of many Ghana fans that the Black Stars will at very least equal the 2006 World Cup performance. But which team will they pick? Regular playing time, current form and the right mixture of experience should be the major criteria for selecting Ghana’s World Cup squad, and if we have any chance of doing well in South Africa, then we should not sacrifice realism and a winning attitude on the altar of sentiment.”
Christopher Opoku, pundit on Metro TV