MOGWASE - Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari is hoping for his first start at the World Cup in the quarter-final against Uruguay after playing only a cameo role so far after a bust up with the team's Serbian coach.
A Champions League winner last month with Inter Milan, the 25-year-old would ordinarily form an integral part of Ghana's midfield but fell foul of coach Milovan Rajevac before the tournament and had another row after team drew with Australia.
Friday's quarter-final at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg offers him a chance at restoring his role in the side, particularly given that right sided midfielder Dede Ayew will miss the match because of suspension.
It puts Muntari in a stark spotlight and, at the start of the week, he is swarmed by reporters and television crews as Ghana finished training at their tiny stadium the rural splendour of South Africa's north-west province.
"I don't know, it depends on the coach, let's see," he tells several interviewers when questioned about possibility of finally playing from the start, as he did in Germany four years ago.
"The coach has to choose who has to play. The most important thing is that I'm with the group, I'm giving all my best."
There is exasperation, but also a calm patience, as he deflects questions about his bust ups with Rajevac.
"The important thing is that we are playing well, doing well and the negative stuff is all behind us. The most important thing we have in mind is to do well for our country," he says, shuffling from one foot to the other.
"I'm OK, I've been training since we came here. We are on our way, we want to do well," he adds, his answers clipped and delivered with a sigh.
Muntari was officially reprimanded following an outburst after the game against Australia in Rustenburg on June 19 where he was only used as a substitute.
Rajevac sought to have him expelled from the squad but relented after an apology and pleas from other players, team officials told Reuters.
Before the tournament Muntari also got on the wrong side of the Serbian coach by leaving the pre-World Cup training squad in London and going off for private medical treatment.
But Muntari tells a different story: "I never got upset. I got injured so I was treating myself. He spoke to me about it. He was concerned. He wanted me to heal well. He decides everything," he said.
It was not the first bust-up between Muntari and Rajevac. The talented midfielder, who now has 55 caps for his country, was left out of the African Nations Cup squad earlier this year after refusing to play in a warm-up friendly last November.
But it is a subject that the player obviously wants to put to bed. "I'm very happy, that's the most important thing," he adds, seeking to shift the tone of the questions before darting away and into the safety of the team bus.comments