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Young blood puts Ghana as slight favourites

By Ponga Liwewe in Johannesburg
Posted on Sunday, 13 June 2010 09:12

Ghana’s opening match against Serbia today could be the first win for Africa at the tournament. A trio of young players from the U20 World Cup

winning-team has boosted the chances of the Black Stars.

Ghana face Serbia today knowing that it is a must-win match if the Black Stars are to progress to the second round. With Germany expected to top the group, the battle is very much on for second place and victory over the Serbs would position the Ghanaians nicely for the second slot in Group D that also includes a competent Australian team.

In the last eight months Ghana has had some enforced changes brought about by injury and indiscipline. But this has unexpectedly yielded a side balanced between youth and experience, incorporating attributes of both guile and speed.

Coach Milovan Rajevac has unveiled the power of U-20 World Cup winners Samuel Inkoom, Dede Ayew and Dominic Adiyiah. The trio were influential in Ghana getting to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations final in 18 years in January and they bring an element of unpredictability that had been lacking previously.

These more recent additions to the team line-up alongside an earlier generation of players that bear the honour of having taking Ghana to their first ever World Cup four years ago in Germany and who have grown in stature since.

Defender John Mensah now plays his football in the English premiership for Sunderland and despite a season burdened by injury, hopes to play a prominent role as leader on the field. With Michael Essien absent through injury, Mensah’s presence will assume greater significance. There are question marks about the role Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari will play. He was omitted from Ghana’s Africa Cup of Nations team for disciplinary reasons and word is that relations between him and Rajevac are cool to say the least.

Ghana’s opponents, Serbia, last played at the World Cup as Serbia and Montenegro but since the two countries are now separate entities the squad has lost some of the players who made up the side that lost to Côte d’Ivoire in 2006.

Managed by Raddy Antic, who has a decent coaching record at both Real Madrid and Barcelona, they come to South Africa with one of the best defenders in the world, Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic. The pace of CSKA Moscow’s Milos Krasic could unsettle the Ghanaian’s and Serbia also have a highly experienced midfielder in Dejan Stankovic. The power of Nikola Zigic is also an asset they will rely on.

Ghana will kick off as slight favourites but Serbia have the skill and unpredictability to upset the bookmakers.

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