LUANDA (AFP) - Football may be the 'beautiful game', but Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac is delighted to mastermind 'ugly' victories at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
After being outclassed 3-1 by 10-man Ivory Coast in their opening match, the 'Black Stars' have ground out 1-0 victories over Burkina Faso, hosts Angola and Nigeria to book a final date with Egypt here Sunday.
In each of the three victories, four-time African champions Ghana took a first-half lead and then erected a defensive blockade no opponent could dismantle.
And the west Africans are now one victory away from a first title since 1982 despite fielding a team that bears scant resemblance to that Rajevac could choose were all his forces available.
Injury ruled central defenders John Pantsil and John Mensah and midfielders Stephen Appiah and Laryea Kingston out before the biennial football showcase kicked off while Spanish club Getafe refused to release Derek Boateng.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien, most talented, best known and popular of the 'Black Stars', managed just 45 minutes of action against the Ivorians before a knee injury at training brought his tournament to a abrupt end.
Rajevac also ignored Sulley Muntari when it came to choosing his 23-strong squad for Angola because the Inter Milan midfielder refused to apologise or pay a fine for missing a Luanda friendly last November.
Many coaches would have compiled a list of excuses and gone whining to the media, but Rajevac drafted in eight of the Ghana squad that won the 2009 world youth championship and got on with the job.
The latest in a long line of Serbs to steer African national teams is a perpetually anxious looking 54-year-old who succeeded Frenchman Claude le Roy in 2008 and guided the 'Black Stars' to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
An international unknown before taking over the 'Black Stars' reins, Rajevac has no time for football romanticism as he repeatedly confesses to an obsession with results.
"We came here (Angola) to compete and not to play entertaining football. The most important thing is the result and not how much possession we had during a particular game," he told reporters.
"Every team must know how to defend because it is an essential element of modern football," he explained after his team eliminated Nigeria and stretched to 270 the minutes without conceding a goal in Angola.
Le Roy, now coach of Gulf state Oman and a spectator here, took hosts Ghana to third place at the last Nations Cup and praised the progess of the team under Rajevac.
"I watched the first match against Ivory Coast and had reservations, but they are looking much better now. They are young, fight hard and retain possession," he noted.
|Coach: M. Rajevac|
for A. Gyan 86'
for A. Opoku 89'
|Eriksson expects Sweden to try and tempt Ibrahimovic out of retirement|
|Spurs signing Janssen almost quit|
|Leicester stay best for Mahrez - Ranieri|
|Allardyce to take Mourinho cue on Rooney|
|Ings ready to outdo big-money signings|
|Henderson optimistic over Liverpool campaign|
|Allardyce hardened to the challenge of England post|
|Barcelona announce record revenues for 2015-16|
|Moyes enjoys Sunderland win as Palace beat Colchester|
|Stoke complete Allen signing|
|Roma coach Spalletti warns suitors off Manolas|
|Cresswell out for up to four months with knee injury|
|Burnley fan banned by club for racist abuse|
|Dad won´t let me play at the Olympics - Larsson Sr pulls rank|
|Kostic joins Hamburg on five-year deal|
|Tevez: I´d turn down Chelsea and Napoli to stay at Boca|
|Mayoral inspired by Benzema for Wolfsburg stint|
|Allardyce straight into competitive action with England|
|Liverpool, Sevilla fined for Europa League final incidents|
|Barcelona seal Guillemenot signing as part of new Servette deal|
|Niersbach handed one-year ban over World Cup corruption|
|Chelsea and Everton ´still interested´ as Koulibaly eyes Napoli exit|
|´Still working hard´ - Balotelli trains with Liverpool kids|
|Winter breaks, long-ball football and the World Cup: Allardyce in his own words|
|Inter warn Napoli Icardi is not for sale|
|Zanetti wants Simeone back at Inter|
|Stoke snap up Sobhi|
|PSG tougher under Emery - Lucas Moura|
|Totti not ready for retirement - Pallotta|
|Confident Allardyce reveals plan for England success|
|Pochettino to discard three Tottenham players|
|Allardyce: Rooney must wait for captaincy decision|
|Aubameyang: I will only leave Dortmund for Real Madrid|
|Allegri silences questions on Pogba|
|Bruce stands by decision to quit Hull City|
|Pochettino: Not the right time for Argentina job|
|Inter yet to approach De Boer with Mancini exit rumoured|
|Ancelotti trusts me more than Guardiola - Ribery|
|Wijnaldum rejected Everton for Klopp|
|Pre-season Manchester derby cancelled|
|Coutinho excited by ´fast´ Liverpool recruits|
|Cristiano Ronaldo and Conor McGregor step into the ring together|
|Mancini coy on reports linking Icardi to Napoli|
|Nolito reveals why he chose Man City over Barcelona|
|Inter 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3: Icardi absence in defeat fuels Napoli talk|
|MLS Review: Wright-Phillips double inspires Red Bulls to New York derby rout|
|James seeks more game time at Madrid|
|Rooney: I want to be a manager|
|Mignolet welcomes Karius challenge in Liverpool number one battle|
|Batshuayi buoyed by winning vibes at Chelsea|
|Moyes and Sunderland players diverted after plane fault|
|´Loved´ Varane targets long Madrid stay|
|Kostic set for Hamburg medical|
|Leicester crying over Kante sale - Ranieri|
|Schurrle the perfect Mkhitaryan replacement - Tuchel|
|West Ham face anxious wait on Cresswell injury|
|Mourinho will accept criticism from United legends|
|Bertolacci desperate for fresh start after underwhelming first season at Milan|
|Hoops hand Toure one-year deal|
|Origi ready to fight for Liverpool spot|
|Emery wants PSG stay for ´fantastic´ Matuidi|
|No Barcelona offer for Vietto - Cerezo|
|Burnley apologise for racist abuse from supporter|
|Guardiola will not rush Kompany comeback|
|Of course I´ll shake Guardiola´s hand, snaps riled Mourinho|
|Watzke: No more signings for Dortmund|
|Roma expect Manolas to snub Premier League move|
|Adriano set to leave Barcelona for Besiktas|
|Manchester United in worst possible situation - Mourinho|
|Sporting would have to sell stadium to afford Van Persie - Jesus|
|Jonas´ agent confirms Barcelona approach|
|No problem with Mourinho, insists Guardiola ahead of derby in China|
|Toronto´s hat-trick hero Giovinco: I´m back|
|Drogba revels in ´special night´, dedicates hat-trick to family|
|MLS Review: Hat-tricks for Drogba and Giovinco as stars shine|
|Whelan backs Liverpool for top-four finish|
|Pellegrini still waiting for right offer|
|Ronaldo deserves to win Ballon d´Or - Vazquez|
|Phelan wants Hull job|
|Alaba saddened by Gotze exit|
|Morgan: Vardy right to re-sign|
|Maradona ´hurting´ as Higuain closes on Juventus move|