Milovan Rajevac faces first test as Black Stars eye revenge over Warriors

BY: Peter Sarbah
Coach Milovan Rajevac
Coach Milovan Rajevac

Newly-appointed Black Stars coach, Milovan Rajevac, will be presented with his first test when he leads the team to clash with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Cape Coast Stadium on Saturday.

The Serbian coach, who is making a return to the top job after 11 years as the replacement for Charles Kwablan Akonnor, will be under huge pressure to make a good impression and kick-start the team's engine in the qualifying campaign after their recent setback.

Similarly, newly-appointed Zimbabwe coach, Norman Mapeza, will be aiming to lift the Warriors from the bottom of the group log in his first match in charge of the team.

Mapeza was appointed caretaker of the southern African side following the dismissal last month of Zdravko Logarusic, and he returns to the team almost 10 years after ending his international career which saw him making 92 appearances for the Warriors.

During Rajevac's first tenure, the Black Stars had a ruthless team which could take on any opponent in the world, but this time around the 67-year-old Serbian will miss some of the marquee names that made Ghana a fearsome side under his charge. Nonetheless, he will be expected to inspire the André Ayew-led team to victory on Saturday to put their qualifying campaign back on track after getting off to a winning start on home soil with a 1-0 victory against Ethiopia before losing by a similar margin away to South Africa.

Caretaker coach Mapeza is also under pressure to impress his employers as Zimbabweans also consider this weekend's game as a fine opportunity to bounce back in the qualifiers which started on a bad note with a scoreless draw at home to South Africa before a 0-1 loss away to Ethiopia pushed the Warriors to the bottom of the Group G log with a single point.

Saturday's match will be the seventh clash between the two teams but the first encounter in a World Cup qualifier. Their previous six clashes saw the Black Stars winning three matches, drawing two and losing one.

Ghanaians will remember how the Warriors inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Ghana and denied the Black Stars an opportunity to progress out of the group stage of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Since that upset, Ghana have never had another opportunity to avenge that painful defeat and this game presents André Ayew and his teammates a fine chance to get their pound of flesh, and more importantly revive their World Cup qualifying campaign, having failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

For Ghanaians, the stakes are very high and it informed the urgency with which Rajevac was appointed last week with a clear mandate to qualify the team for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup and also win the next Africa Cup of Nations.

Rajevac will have at his disposal the finest Ghanaian players to help him execute his mandate. The return of Arsenal star, Thomas Partey, and Ajax Amsterdam’s Mohammed Kudus from injury is a major boost for the Serbian trainer in whom the FA has placed its faith to turn the team's fortunes around and restore Ghana's lost glory.

Skipper André Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Daniel Amartey, Mubarak Wakaso, Alfred Duncan, Baba Iddrisu are among some of the top players plying their trade in Europe who Coach Rajevac could rely on for a winning start  on Saturday.

His Zimbabwean counterpart will also be counting on Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba, Jordan Zemura of AFC Bournemouth and Tendayi Darikwa of Wigan Athletics among some of his main stars in a bid to upset the Black Stars at a venue they are unbeaten in recent years.

Like the Warriors, the Black Stars badly need victory in this game and it also provides an opportunity for the Ghana’s players to step up to the plate to convince the new coach they deserve a permanent spot in the team.