13.05.2005 Football News

Proven Dujkovic keen to bring Ghana glory

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Serbian-born boss Ratomir Dujkovic made a quick and credible reputation for himself on the African continent by taking unheralded Rwanda to the CAF African Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia last year. One of the biggest shocks in the history of African football, the feat proved a major breakthrough for the tiny central African country. To qualify, Rwanda knocked heavily fancied Ghana from top spot in their group with a shock win in Kigali. Now, in a delightful twist, Dujkovic has taken over as coach of the Ghanaian 'Black Stars', whom he is hoping to take to the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time. Ghana, despite being African champions three times, have never been to a FIFA World Cup and Dujkovic is the latest incumbent strapped with the responsibility. Ghana are three points behind Group 2 leaders South Africa with four rounds of qualifying to go and the 59-year-old Dujkovic, who has also coached Venezuela and Burma's national teams, believes they may have to win all four of their games to advance to Germany 2006. You took over as national coach in December. How are you enjoying coaching in Ghana? I am really enjoying it. Obviously it's completely different to my last job in Rwanda. The quality of the players and the depth of talent are obviously much better here. The level of the football is also better. It makes the job more interesting for me. When you took over as coach of Rwanda it was your first job in Africa but might we say now Africa is 'in your blood'? Yes, yes, of course. It is. (Laughs). I've got the fever! In your opinion, what are Ghana's chances of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany? OK, we have a chance. I think we have the same chance as South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But we'll have to play well to get the results. We know that realistically we must win all four of our remaining matches if we want to qualify. That will mean we won't have to depend on anybody else doing us a favour or waiting for results that are beyond our control. Your visit to South Africa in mid-June would, presumably, be the most potentially decisive of the four games you have left to play. That match is going to be crucial. There is no doubt about it. That could be the one that decides the outcome of the group. How easy will it be for you to have a team in prime condition for that game given most of your players come from Europe and will already be several weeks into their summer break? It is a problem and that is why I'm speaking daily to the players in Europe, convincing them of the need to come home and prepare for the games. Unfortunately they are going to have to forget about their holidays. They are needed for World Cup duty. They need to understand they have a great chance to qualify and this essentially is the greatest chance of their careers. And are you getting a good response from the players? Yes, yes. They know that this is a real chance for them. They say they are ready to sacrifice everything for it. Is the quality of players at your disposal in the Ghana national team better than you had thought when you first took on the job six months ago? Yes, indeed. Much better than I had anticipated. It is a very talented group of players, particularly those who are playing in Europe. I have had no problem in getting the players to commit to the national team. Everyone understands the opportunity that Ghana has over the next months to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time. They are highly motivated and they know they will have to dig deep to qualify.

Ghana's failure to qualify for previous FIFA World Cup finals has been something of a millstone around the neck of previous coaches. Are you feeling the same pressure to deliver qualification? There is an intense pressure and it is a subject that everyone talks about. But I don't care about this. I'm not letting this bother me at all. I believe we will be in Germany next year.

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