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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Milo’s pressure period draws closer

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Milovan Rajevac has set mid-May for the release of his squad for the 2010 World Cup, but that has not stopped a vibrant media and ambitious players from getting their own

little campaigns into overdrive.

The period leading up to the naming of squads for major tournaments in Ghana has always been a heated one.

Journalists become all-powerful, the radio sports shows take on added importance, players and their close associates happily court them, players past and present line up to give their opinions on who is fit to go and who is not, and, above all, the smallest kick of the ball is magnified as a strong case for being good enough for the squad.

The central figures in the last World Cup squad for Germany 2006 were a mix of established names and unknowns. There was a long debate about whether Samuel Osei Kufuour should make the Black Stars squad. It took an apology on television, which Ratomir Dujkovic was far from happy with, to force the coach’s hands.

He stood firm though, over the strong agitation for Baaba Armando, the ex-Asante Kotoko playmaker who had put in a series of cameos to win the powerful local media lobby on his side.

Dujkovic’s compatriot Rajevac will have similar issues to deal with and already the debate is raging, the lobby getting intense.

One of the immediate issues that will occupy Rajevac’s thoughts is how much time he can give Michael Essien before making the call about whether he names him in the final squad or not. The odds will be heavily in favour of leaving it as late as possible to make the call.

And out of nowhere have come regular stories about Ahmed Barusso, the midfielder who roamed for a while before making a home at Torino on loan from AS Roma. He has been in the cold since Ghana 2008, but his name is popping up a lot more ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

So too is Razak Pimpong, who won the penalty that Stephen Appiah converted against the USA to take Ghana into the second round of the 2006 World Cup. He fell from the high of that period, could not cut it at Al-Masry in Egypt, and is now trying to make his bones in the Danish Second Division with Viborg. He rarely scores but after netting over the weekend he said: “My main target is to be noticed by the Ghana coach. I am playing regularly and now I am scoring. I can be of benefit to my country again. I am fighting.”

Pimpong may have good spirit, but there is every chance Rajevac won’t be looking to the Danish Second Division for goalscoring inspiration.

One issue that Rajevac can’t run away from though, will be the case of Appiah. It is dominating discussions already, with both sides speaking their mind in strong terms. There are those convinced he will only be good in a non-playing capacity, but the strongest support for Appiah has come from the renowned columnist Kwabena Yeboah, who wrote on Monday that the midfielder must be in South Africa.

Rajevac will, of course, have the last word, but he will find support for the player who has struggled to make an impact at club level is strong within the higher level of Ghana football.

That may not be the same case for Eric Bekoe, the Egypt-based forward, but he has his loyal followers who have been relentless in their insistence that Bekoe deserves a crack at the big time. Rajevac clearly does not fancy him, but it won’t stop the debate nonetheless.

All of that sets the squad announcement up nicely. Hopefully it won’t be done with the release of a statement as the GFA is wont to do sometimes. If there is a press conference, history suggests it will be a fiery encounter; one of the few moments that Rajevac could lose his calm demeanour.

While he may have the sole mandate to pick who will present Ghana in South Africa, Rajevac will discover there is no shortage of self-styled coaches; very opinionated experts who speak a brand of tactics only they understand and fans determined to have more than an ordinary say.

Source: Michael Oti Adjei

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