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|
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