Ghana Camp Focus – Rajevac must calm dressing room when the United States come knocking

Sulley Muntari certainly has Stephen Appiah to thank after his tirade at Ghana Coach Milovan Rajevac left him on the brink of an early exit in South Africa. The Inter midfielder vented his fury towards his team mates and Coach after the 1-1 draw with Australia on Saturday and once again found himself on the bench against Germany. Bologna midfielder Appiah successfully cooled tensions and convinced Coach Rajevac to keep the treble winner in his plans. Despite losing 1-0 to Germany , Ghana became the first African side to reach the knockout stages of this year’s World Cup. In what turned out to be a lively encounter, it was the Europeans who stole the glory with a tremendous volley from Mesut Ozil.

Ghana started the game in a very fast paced fashion and were unlucky not to salvage anything from an end to end game. Rajevac made just one change to the side that was held by 10-man Australia with Sunderland’s John Mensah replacing Lee Addy in defence. Rajevac lined up in his usual 4-2-3-1 formation which indicated the Black Stars were not going to be holding out for the single point they needed to progress. It is becoming more apparent that Ghana know nothing more than to attack their opponents down to the core but they are beginning to leave themselves very exposed. Rajevac must prepare his side for a mouth watering encounter against the United States on Saturday which will leave the victors a quarter final berth with either Mexico or Argentina. Before Rajevac can start thinking of that it is vital he adopts a more defensive approach. This is not to suggest Ghana will quash their usual tactics but they will find the bigger teams will unfasten their open tactics and exploit them.

There was no real impression on the Black Stars performance tonight to suggest that the quarrel between Muntari and Rajevac had affected the team but behind closed doors it may be a lot more ghastly. Rajevac can revel in the glory that Ghana have qualified for the last 16 but there is much more work to do. The United States will play in very much the same way as Ghana so predict a lively encounter-possibly a goal fest. Midfielder Landon Donovan said after their last-gasp win over Algeria: “People watching back home – we’re not done yet. Algeria were pushing and we had to take the fight to them. Time felt like it stopped when I scored but I just couldn’t miss it from there.” Energetic words from the man who had a loan spell at English side Everton earlier in the season. It promises to be an enticing game on Saturday with Ghana looking to better their record of reaching the second round and move on to the quarter finals. In Germany 4 years previous they were comprehensively beaten by Brazil but Fulham defender John Pantsil said: “In Germany in 2006 we reached the last 16 but now, with Africa hosting and a stronger squad I have full confidence of us being in the semi-finals. It’s a big chance for Africa to achieve.

Pantsil has certainly set a high marker for the Ghanaian team to achieve but all is not impossible if Rajevac can calm the dressing room dispute and tighten up at the back. Ghana have only conceded twice in the tournament so far so it’s not as if they are leaking goals all over. The openness they leave themselves to is a major issue and if Bob Bradley can exploit this-Ghana may well not live up to Pantsil’s expectations. Between now and Saturday it is vital usual captain Appiah and current captain John Mensah take the reins from Rajevac somewhat and release the tension that is clearly filling the dressing room. Ghana should bask in the glory that they have qualified despite defeat on Wednesday and focus upon serving the whole of Africa to a footballing master class when they play the United States – with or without Muntari.

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