Ghana coach plots demise of his homeland

PRETORIA, June 12 (Reuters) - Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac must plot the downfall of his homeland when his Black Stars open their Group D campaign against Serbia on Sunday.

"This is a very, very difficult situation for me but I'm a professional and I will concentrate on the game," Rajevac said in a media conference on Saturday.

Rajevac will go go head-to-head with friend and compatriot Radomir Antic who is coaching Serbia in their maiden appearance as an independent nation.

"Radomir Antic is a very experienced coach ... He's also my friend and of-course this will remain after the game," Rajevac said.

"But during the game we will try to work the best for our own team. I've been living with my team for two years and managed to reach the World Cup and we will do our best here."

The Black Stars reached the last 16 of the World Cup four years ago in their first appearance at a finals and some members of the squad are already talking up their chances of reaching the semi-finals in South Africa.

Rajevac stressed the importance of getting points on the board quickly but conceded the absense of Michael Essien, who suffered a knee injury at the African Nations Cup and failed to recover in time, was a blow they would do well to recover from.

"In the first game you never know what's going to happen, it all depends on who manages to impose themselves on the other, that's who will win," he added.

"Michael is not with us and that's truly a great handicap for us, and for the World Cup as well. It's a shame he's not with us, for sure we would have been much stronger."

Ghana captain Stephen Appiah agreed Essien's loss would be difficult to overcome but could hardly contain his excitement at playing in the first World Cup on African soil.

"Africans are watching, Africans are hoping that one of their teams will go far. I think it's a big challenge for us but we have our destiny in our own hands, he added. "It's going to be an historic World Cup."