John Paintsil

This is going to be Africa's first World Cup. How important is it personally, and for your country in general, that the tournament is taking place in South Africa?? It makes it feel like we will be playing at home, lifting the cup in Africa. The whole of the continent will support us. So it will be a good thing for us. And we stand a better chance than anyone else [in Africa] of reaching the semi-finals or even the final. ??

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You have a pretty tough group with Germany, Australia and Serbia. How good is this Ghana team??
We couldn't present our full squad at the African Cup of Nations [in Angola in January]. But the young players went there, did well and got to the final. That has boosted our morale and has earned the respect of the teams who we will be playing at the World Cup.??

Ghana won the Under-20s World Cup too with Dede Ayew. Do you think 2014 is the tournament to aim for or do you think these young players can perform at this World Cup?
Ayew is a talent, and the son of [former African Player of the Year] Abedi Pele. But we are ready to fight for the nation. I trust them and believe in these young players. And Asamoah Gyan too, who was at Udinese – these are the young players to watch.??

The Ivory Coast didn't do so well at the African Cup of Nations. Would you consider yourself Africa's best hope??
Yes, I can say that. We are not the only Africans who will play at this World Cup, but we will play well, as I am sure all the other African teams will, because all of Africa will be behind us. My dream is to see two African countries in the final.??

Well, you might be meeting England in the second round if you qualify. Do you think that England versus Ghana would be a tougher match than people perhaps realise?
We haven't played England before so we don't know. When the time comes we will know what to do but at the moment I can't say much about England playing Ghana. I don't think it will happen. We will win the group. I always want to be at the top, and I believe me and my team-mates will win the group.??

What did you learn from the 2006 World Cup??
When we lost to Brazil in the last 16, it was a good experience. We are not going to run and chase the ball like we did then, and give up our positions. Now we will keep our shape all the time and look for our players and also cover our positions well. We don't want to leave holes and openings for them to put the ball in the back of our net. We will be more mature. We have also had the chance to play some big European teams. Morale is high.??

What about the coach [Serbian Milovan Rajevac]. What difference has he made? ?
He is doing a fantastic job, listening to the players and seeing who will be ready or not. He has been here for over a year now so the preparation is good. ??

I remember you controversially pulled out a Star of David at the 2006 World Cup, in honour of your then club, Israel league side Hapoel Tel Aviv. Will be packing a flag to honour Fulham in the same way?
No, nothing like that. I didn't know it was going to be so controversial. I just wanted to show my position to the people back in Tel Aviv because they were so good to me; so nice to me. I didn't realise it was going to be a problem. They were amazing and gave me such a good reception and were always in good voice about me. But I didn't realise it would create a political incident! So no, no Union Jack this time.

??Do you really believe an African team can win it?
Yes, I do. If not Ghana, then I think any one of the other African teams can win it. I see all the teams are at the same level – Ivory Coast or Algeria. All Africans will back us.