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07.10.2008 Sports News

Operation Whitewash Lesotho - Hopes On Amoah, Tagoe

On a good day and in their best element, a team with potent strikers such as Matthew Amoah, Prince Tagoe , Junior Agogo and Eric Bekoe should look powerful enough to scare any opponents.

Well, these are the strikers on whose shoulders Coach Rajevac Milovan is likely to place the responsibility of keeping Ghana's dream alive in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

Come Saturday, the Stars host Lesotho at the Sekondi Stadium and Coach Milovan, faced with a crucial test in his job of leading the team to their make-or-break final date with Lesotho, is determined to tackle the recurrent goal-scoring problem that has dogged the national team head-on.

Perched at third place in the Group Five standings, anything short of a convincing win could prematurely end the Stars' dream to march on in the 2010 World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers.

“We have our fate in our hands on Saturday. Our performance will be determined by how well we are able to use our scoring chances, not the fine or entertaining game we will play. My main tactic for the day will be to end our inconsistent scoring style. The players we have called up fit into the game plan and we only hope they can deliver to perfection,” Coach Milo told the Graphic Sports of his plans for Saturday.

With Asamoah Gyan still not recovered from his injury, and Agogo out of sorts, Milo has had to make some changes.

Impressed by Amoah's six goals in four games so far this season, he did not waste time to recall the NAC Breda striker who seems to have fully recovered from his nagging injury and rediscovered his scoring boots.

Not only that, Tagoe who was also influential in the Stars' campaign but was left out in the Libya game has also been recalled and is expected to fill the void upfront which was evident in the Tripoli game.

“I would have been surprised if anyone questioned the inclusion of Amoah or Tagoe in the squad for the Lesotho game. From what I have read about the Stars and some of the clips of old matches I've watched, they have both scored some important goals for the team, especially Amoah, before his injury which caused him a place in recent times. You can not ignore a player like that when he is also in good form now.

“Like I said, the doors are open to players who show their current form, and I think Amoah has earned his place back to the team. He, no doubt, has shown that he is a professional player of class and knows just how to get into the groove and get the job done, and at this time that we are also suffering some injuries and suspensions, we definitely need a player like that,” Coach Milo said of his selection which he hopes will solve the problem that has for a long time, bogged the Stars.

The Stars need to score more goals to secure their qualification to the next level of the qualifiers, no matter what happens in the other group game in Libreville involving Libya and Gabon who lie first and second respectively.

And just as Tagoe has done in his two games (Libya and Gabon both at home) in the qualifiers, and Amoah did during the 2006 qualifiers, they will be expected to keep the dream alive with their precision in front of goal.

A win for Gabon could increase their points to 12, the same as Libya, and thus the final decision will be dependent on goal difference and the head-to-head result.

Infront of an expectant home crowd, and after several weeks in charge, Milovan is expected to scale the Lesotho challenge, not just to keep the dream alive, but to convince the skeptics that he is capable of being in such a demanding high profile job.

"No position is permanent in the team. If it was so in the past, it won't be in my time as I've already assured. I need players who will get the job done the way I want it and not just because of their previous contribution to the team,” Milo further explained.

"More than ever, it is important and healthy for the team to have the best to compete for places — that is why it is a national team — so that we can push them to give their all. Not 50 per cent, not 80 per cent, but absolute performance, so if Tagoe, Amoah, Junior Agogo and Gyan are all fit for action, all the better for the team.

It means there is competition and a very good back-up plan. At any time and as a good strategy, the bench must be equally strong as the starting team.”

With Michael Essien's injury and the absence of Laryea Kingston who is suspended, the coach has to try other options, and the return of inspirational captain Stephen Appiah could ease the pressure on him.

While the attacking line is his prime concern, he also reckons that there is some magic in Appiah's leadership qualities that inspires the team, but that will not be enough to go past Lesotho.

Rather, he must feel comfortable with the players he has for all the other areas of the game to carry his plans through.

“I must not only be concerned about the forward line, or if Appiah can inspire the team to win. We have to prevent conceding goals just as we press to score more goals. The strength of a team does not only lie in the attacking line, but also how well the midfield operates as well as the backline (defence),” he said.

Coach Milo's specific example was the way the Stars conceded two quick goals against Lesotho in their first leg game played in Blomfontein South Africa and thinks it was the momentary loss of concentration that caused the team.

“Those goals conceded could have been avoided if the Stars had not relaxed. In any game, we need players who will be part of the game from start to finish. We've worked on those areas and all the players know the importance of this game, I will wait to see what they make of that on Saturday,” he said.

He declined to comment on the formation he would play, especially when he was criticised for playing an unfamiliar formation in Tripoli.

“I think it does not matter what formation we play. It is the players who make the formation and they must play to instruction. If we have a plan and strategy and everyone plays their role well, then we have a formation. The most important thing is getting everyone to play their part,” he said.

Story by Rosalind Amoh