Ghana's Black Stars go into World Cup qualifying action against Lesotho today, needing nothing short of a convincing win, and their teeming fans expecting nothing less to keep their 2010 World Cup dream alive.
The stakes are, no doubt, very high for the Stars who after several years in the wilderness made their World Cup debut in 2006, but today's game also pits two compatriots to decide who is the better tactician on the pitch.
Ghana's Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac, only two games in charge, needs to lead the Stars into the round of the qualifiers, just as his compatriot, Zavisa Milosavljevic, is also expected to lead Lesotho to a good result.
The Crocodiles are yet to earn any point, and despite it being a tall order, hope to achieve that feat against the Stars in Sekondi.
But Coach Milo and his men are not ready to be made scapegoats and have pledged to be unsympathetic when they go into action this afternoon.
Lying third in Group Five behind leaders Libya and Gabon, after winning two and losing two matches, the Stars must win to ease their passage into the next level of the qualifiers, irrespective of what happens in the other group game involving Gabon and Libya in Libreville.
While the Stars may be determined to successfully scale the tricky Lesotho hurdle, they are also aware that it will take more than words to fly high, considering the results of past encounters with relatively unknown sides in football.
In the past the Stars' World Cup dreams were dashed at such crucial levels by less football endowed countries like Burundi and Rwanda, and psychologically the Stars have struggled to raise their game to the desirable levels.
“We are aware of the task ahead of us and we know that Lesotho won't come easy. Our fate is in our hands and we know just what to do to keep the World Cup dream on course. We can't allow the visitors to come and embarrass us in our own home,” captain Stephen Appiah said of their assignment.
Comparatively better as they may be, the Stars still face the nagging issue of goalscoring, a problem Coach Milo is facing squarely, even though he admits the final result rests with the players.
“We have built a team good enough to get us the desired results. From our list we should not have problems scoring. We have tried some tactics and what should be done.
“Ultimately, however, the final execution of the job rests with the players. They must play to win on the pitch,” Coach Rajevac said.
The Basothos admit they have a daunting task against the Stars but have not ruled out a possible win.
“In stature and by names, we are the underdogs but we are in this game to give them a run for their money. We are determined to push them to the wall, and it is up to them what they make of their advantage,” the 46-year-old Milosavljevic said on arrival in Accra last Thursday for the game.
Indeed, player for player, and by previous achievements, the Stars are still streets ahead, despite the absence of Michael Essien (injured) and Laryea Kingston (suspended), but if what the Basothos put up against the Stars in the first leg is anything to go by, then the Stars will have to dig deep to overcome the challenge.
To start with, they must go in for the kill even before the first half ends so as to ease the pressure in the second half. More important, while going for the goals, they must keep their back covered to avoid letting in any goals in their own net as it happened in Blomfontein when the Basothos rallied from behind with two quick goals to finish their home game 2-3.
The possible starting line-up of Richard Kingson, John Paintsil, John Mensah, Eric Addo, Harrison Afful, Daniel Yeboah, Anthony Annan, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Ali Muntari, Matthew Amoah and Prince Tagoe, is doubtless, poised to live up to expectation.
Story by Rosalind Amoh