One of the most recognisable faces in the Serbia squad at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has grown into a key player for both the English champions and his country.

With just hours to go before the Balkan nation's opening Group D encounter against Ghana, described by Ivanovic as “the most important of my career”, Serbia's No6 took time out for an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.

One step at a time
This will be Ivanovic’s first experience of playing in the FIFA World Cup and it could not come at a better time for the versatile 26-year-old. "It’s amazing to be here as this is the pinnacle of any player’s career," said the player, able to line up anywhere across the back four for Radomir Antic’s team. "I’m ready and I want to prove my ability and help my country to do well."

“We are only thinking about our opening game," continued the player, on suggestions that Serbia could be one of the tournament's surprise packages. "Ghana are a very good side and we are in an extremely difficult group where all four teams are capable of qualifying for the second round. We must show our footballing quality right from the first whistle to finish in the top two."

“Although we have a lot of young players, many of them are playing in the world’s best leagues," added Ivanovic, on why the Plavi (the Blues) have good reason to be hopeful. "That's why we're used to facing top-class opposition. Also, one of our strongest points is the fact that this team has been playing together for a couple of years now and we know each other very well."

We are really solid and disciplined and very hard to break down defensively. In addition, set pieces are one of our great strengths so playing against us is far from easy.

Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic

“We are really solid and disciplined and very hard to break down defensively," said the full-back or centre-back, when quizzed on Serbia's other qualities. "In addition, set pieces are one of our great strengths so playing against us is far from easy."

Yet lest Serbian fans get carried away, Ivanovic was keen to sign off with a word of caution. "Most of the players aren’t thinking about getting to the Final, we're just focusing on tomorrow’s game. If we want to go far, we have to be fully aware of the difficulty of the challenges immediately ahead."