With an historic 2006 World Cup ticket for the Black Stars vietually tucked away, Coach Ratomir Dujkovic is setting his sight on another goal: The 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt.
Even before the Stars' last World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde in Praia on October 8, Djukovic has mapped out plans for the Nations Cup and is eagerly waiting to execute it.
His plans for the Nations Cup may, however, not include most of the key players as he intends to give many more players a chance to feature for the Stars.
In an interview with the Graphic Sports, coach Djukovic said he is likely to rest most of the key players who featured in the qualifiers to give them ample rest for the World Cup.
Aware of the pressures the jostle between country and club put on most professional players, coach Djukovic said his plan to rest some of his key players is to ensure that he has very fit players who would be at their peak when the World Cup kicks off.
“The players go through a lot playing for both country and club, and with the World Cup in mind it would be wise to rest some of these players and open the doors for those who are doing well but are yet to get a chance to feature for the Stars", he said.
He believes that it will not be wise to be drawn into any club versus country row for the players as most of them are likely to play crucial roles for their sides in both domestic and continental assignments at the same time the Nations Cup will be taking place.
“It will also be risky to continuously rely on the same players. When they get injured, then you have to start the process of getting worthy replacements who have the same work rate and fit well into the scheme of things,” the coach stressed.
He said there were many more players who were equally good and deserved a chance to be called up for national assignment and was therefore opening his doors wide to include those players.
“There are many players who still need to be checked out. Some of them were out because of protracted injuries. The qualifiers did not give us the time to do that, and with the Nations Cup approaching, it will be a good exercise to recall some of these players and check them out and see how they fit into the scheme of things.
Don't forget we are still going through the team building exercise,” Coach Djukovic explained.
Coach Djukovic dismissed the assertion that his intended plans were a reflection of his attitude towards the Nations Cup, saying he was equally exicted about the Nations Cup as he was about the World fiesta.
“When I took this job, I knew the priority was qualifying for Germany 2006. But I also knew that with the passion that many have for the national team, it would not be enough to just qualify.
Even though they may openly not care much about the Nations Cup in their hearts, there is the silent desire to see the Black Stars win for the fifth time,” he said.
He was quick to add that he was also eager to have a better experience at the Nations Cup as his first appearance was shortlived after the first round.
The Serbian led Rwanda to their first Nations Cup appearance, a feat achieved at the expense of Ghana two years ago, but his Rwandan charges did not go past the group stage.
He fells short of naming the players he intended to rest and those to gain call-ups. However, it is believed that the likes of Germany-based Otto Addo, who got injured playing for the Stars in 2002, Razak Pimpong with Danish side FC Midtjylland and Tachie Mensah who plays for a first division side in Switzerland, are a few of the players who will be closely monitored by Doya for his exercise.
Coach Djukovic refused to be drawn into the latest arguments and discussions over whether former Black Stars skipper, Abedi Pele, will be recalled into the national team at anytime.
Coach Djukovic said though he did not see much of the maestro play apart from his 1991 experience with French side Olympique Marseille when they won the European Cup, he no doubt recognised his achievement, but it was too late for him to be of any influential benefit to the Stars now.
He said his policy of players playing consistently before receiving a national call-up had not changed.