Rajevac: A tough challenge
Ghana belatedly kick off their CAF Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Côte d'Ivoire in Cabinda on Friday and coach Milovan Rajevac is expecting no easy ride in what is certainly the pick of the first-round games.
Both teams will be desperate for a victory in what is now a three-team Group B following the absence of Togo, whose team bus came under attack by terrorists last Friday, prompting their withdrawal from the competition.
While it is a must-win game for Côte d'Ivoire after their opening-match goalless draw against Burkina Faso, it is a first match of the tournament for Ghana after their game with Togo on Monday was cancelled.
Rajevac's team have had several problems during the build-up, with injuries taking a toll on many key players - Stephen Appiah, John Mensah and Laryea Kingston just some of the big names not fully fit, while Michael Essien is only just back from a hamstring problem.
Add to that the events of six days ago and it leaves the Ghanaians facing a daunting start against the Ivorians. But the Serbian boss is not fazed and is confident his inexperienced side, 11 of which will be playing in their first Cup of Nations, can succeed.
"We want to win this competition but this first game is going to be interesting," he said. "We are pitting our very young team against one of the best and most experienced sides in Africa."
Rajevac, himself a debutant in the continental showpiece, is also wary of a backlash, saying: "We will give our best to try to win. For them this result (against Burkina Faso) is not the best and against us they will try to win, so we must be prepared."
As for Chelsea midfielder Essien, who only arrived in camp yesterday, the coach added: "For now his chances of playing Friday's game are 50-50. He might start the game, or come in the second half or might not play at all."
Côte d'Ivoire are a team loaded with talent and include some of the biggest names in Africa with Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho among their ranks.
However, Vahid Halilhodzic's pre-tournament favourites failed to deliver the goods in their opening game and defeat to Ghana could result in the unthinkable - an early exit. Manchester City defender Kolo Toure said: "I am confident. We are going to work hard to be ready against one of the best teams in Africa. We need to show character. We have the spirit, and the team."