When Claude Le Roy resigned as Ghana coach last year, the task of leading the Black Stars to the first-ever FIFA World Cup™ on African soil fell to Milovan Radevaj. The Serb's first real test came in the second round of the African qualifiers for the showpiece of world football and although the West Africans stumbled away to Gabon and Libya, a convincing 3-0 win in their final game against Lesotho was good enough to see them top Group 5 and qualify for the final round, where they will face Benin, Sudan and Mali.
Rajevac's second big test was the CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) which was held in Côte d'Ivoire from 28 February to 8 March and although it ended in disappointment as the Black Stars went down surprisingly to Congo DR 2-0 in the final, the Serb still believes the tournament was a success. "The tournament was quite good," the coach told FIFA.com. "The teams were all pretty equal and the quality on display was terrific. I am pleased with our results and my first impression from a tournament in Africa is a positive one. I think it is quite clear that tactically the players here have really improved."
The 55 year old added that he felt a tournament such as the CHAN, which is open only to players who play in the domestic league of their national teams, is a wonderful idea. "It is a great and rare opportunity to see these players compete at a high level," he said. "There are a lot of good ones playing domestically throughout Africa and when they compete in a competition like the CHAN, it is possible to really assess their quality and their readiness to compete at the highest level."
Aiming for the Stars
Rajevac insisted that several of the players he used during the finals had shown that they are capable of taking the next step toward places in the senior Black Stars. "We need constant stream of players moving into the senior set-up to ensure a bright future for Ghanaian football," said the Serb. "I am sure of one thing: some of those who played at the CHAN will be in the squad for our next World Cup qualifying game.
"I will look at our professional players in Europe and once we know what the position is with them, we will see which ones we can draft into the Black Stars side for the World Cup qualifiers," he continued. "The players that I had in Côte d'Ivoire showed quite clearly that I can count on them. They showed that by qualifying for the final."
Rajevac opted to take his seat in the VIP stands for the final in Abidjan on 8 March, where he watched the final group game against Congo DR and the semi-final victory against Senegal after serving a one-game suspension for a sending off early in the event. And he insisted that the deciding game was a very different match from the group meeting between the two sides. "In our final group game, we had to win to stay in the competition, but Congo DR could afford to lose. We met a different opponent in the final."
Happy in Africa
The Ghana post is the first time Rajevac has been in charge of a national team, having previously coached at club level in his native Serbia, Sweden and briefly in the Middle East.
"The only time I'd been to Africa was when I travelled to Libya with Red Star Belgrade for a friendly," he admitted admitted. "After my compatriot Ratomir Dujkovic took Ghana to the World Cup in 2006 I suppose the FA wanted a coach from a similar background. I grabbed the opportunity and want to now show that they were right in giving it to me. I am confident that I can and will have success here."
Rajevac is no stranger to accomplishment in the technical area. Before taking the Ghaneain reins, he sensationally led Serbian club FK Borac to the first round of the UEFA Cup, winning his final game in charge against Lokomotiv Sofia 1-0 to set them on their way. "I am very happy to be in Africa," the coach enthused.
"Everywhere you go, you see children playing football. It is by far the most popular sport on the continent and so many of the European teams now have African players who are very important in their respective squads. Africa is like a huge mine of footballers and I am happy that I can be a part of developing African football even further."