ACCRA, Jan 3, 2010 (AFP) - Most football coaches might have given up title hopes on injury worries to one or two key players. But not Milovan Rajevac, the Coach of the Ghana's senior national football team, which has been hit by serious injury crisis to key players ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations expected to kick off in seven days.
Serbian trainer Milovan Rajevac is optimistic that Ghana could still pick up a fifth title at the end of the three-week competition to make him the first foreign coach to achieve the feat with the team.
The absence through injury of experienced and regular players such as captain Stephen Appiah of Italian side Bologna, John Mensah of English Premiership side Sunderland, Fulham's John Paintsil and Laryea Kingston of Scotland's Hearts means the coach must vary his game plan and tactics.
"I know that a foreigner is yet to win the competition and I want to become that first coach to deliver the title and it is possible," Rajevac told journalists last week before the team left Accra for Nelspruit, South Africa to begin their pre-tournament training.
German trainer Otto Pfister came close to winning the trophy with the Black Stars in 1992 but lost out on penalties to Ivory Coast in Senegal.
Ghana under Frenchman Claude LeRoy finished third when it hosted the last edition of the tournament.
Also on the injury list but is expected to recover and join the rest of the team before the commencement of the tournament, is Chelsea’s midfield kingpin Michael Essien who limped off clutching his hamstring in Chelsea's Champions League game against APOEL Nicosia.
Rajevac has blended his squad with eight members of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup winning team in Egypt last year.
"You can see the coach has brought in talented youngsters who have shown great quality already, so while it’s unfortunate that injuries have come, we have to concentrate on what we have," Eric Addo (Roda JC, Holland) was quoted as saying by the official website of the Ghana Football Association.
The injuries will deny Ghana of some badly needed experience at the tournament but the Ghana Football Association vice president Fred Pappoe says there is no point brooding over the losses.
"I am a perennial optimist. I don’t pay attention to the dark side of life. Injuries have come; injuries will come so we can’t brood about it. I am not looking at the players injured I am looking at those here," he told a local television station by phone from the team’s camp in South Africa.
The Serbian Coach has axed Inter Milan’s midfielder Sulley Muntari a regular player in the team from the tournament squad on the grounds of indiscipline.
Back on the street of Accra, not everyone is sharing in the optimism of the coach and officials despite conceding to the technical capabilities of the Coach.
"For me I do not think we can do well in Angola. With the absence of these key players, I wonder if the young lads can stand the difficult and rather physical game usually exhibited during the African Cup of Nation’s football tournament. Perhaps, luck will be on our side," Johnson Armah, a football enthusiast told AFP.
The Black Stars have been drawn in Group B of the CAN alongside Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo in an all-West African battle.