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Serbia raring to go - Antic
13/06/2010  by PA
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Serbia coach Radomir Antic is confident his team will be able to cope with the "huge psychological pressure" they are set to encounter as they begin their World Cup campaign against Ghana in Pretoria.

Playing in their first finals as an independent nation, Serbia will be determined to get off to a good start against Ghana, with matches against Germany and Australia to come in Group D.

But, with it being their opening appearance of the tournament, Antic admits there will be additional pressure on the players.

"The beginning of the World Cup is when we think about many things - we fight against Ghana but also ourselves," he said.

"We have great ambitions and the first game is a game with huge psychological pressure, as always."

However, Antic believes that the club successes that some of his players have enjoyed over the last few years will stand them in good stead.

The likes of Inter Milan's Dejan Stankovic, Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United, Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and Standard Liege forward Milan Jovanovic have all enjoyed trophy-winning campaigns in recent years.

"We are a team comprised of champions, players who know how to play under great pressure," said the vastly-experienced Antic, who replaced Miroslav Djukic as head coach barely two weeks before Serbia's opening World Cup qualifier back in 2008.

"Ever since I became coach, each year our players have managed to win 10 trophies, which means that my players know how to play well when they have to. The important thing is to know how to play under pressure.

"For me, my players are champions."

Antic has a fully-fit squad at his disposal, with the players all eagerly wanting the action to begin.

"What our team wants is for the World Cup to finally start and I can tell you that all the guys on the list are more than well prepared," the former Real Madrid and Barcelona coach said.

"They have no physical difficulties and we have a squad of 23 players I can count on.

"Of course, our opponents are a very good team - four times winners of the African Nations Cup and winners of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup (2009).

"Ghana also reached the final of the African Nations Cup this year, but I believe in my players. I have faith in them.

"I'm also very content with the conditions in which this game will take place. The pitch is very good, conditions are very good and I'm sure that it will be a true and good game."

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac will put friendship and blood ties aside for 90 minutes tomorrow as he faces his countrymen Serbia.

The Cajetina-born 56-year-old played for and managed a number of clubs in his native country down the years, including Red Star Belgrade, while as a defender he also represented Yugoslavia.

He is also friends with veteran coach Antic, the man he will pit his wits against at the Loftus Versfeld stadium.

Regardless of all that though, Rajevac insists there will be no split loyalties for him against Serbia as he seeks to help Ghana enjoy a winning start to what will be their second appearance at the World Cup finals.

He said: "For the first match of the World Cup my role is unusual because we will be playing against my country and I'm the coach of Ghana.

"This is a very difficult situation for me but I'm a professional and I will concentrate on the game," added Rajevac, who took charge of Ghana in 2008 after succeeding Frenchman Claude Le Roy.

"We all know everything about each other, so we'll see (what happens)."

Rajevac is the second Serbian coach to face his birth nation and he will be hoping to do better than the first - Blagoje Vidinic, whose Zaire side were thumped 9-0 by Yugoslavia back in 1974.

If the Black Stars are to enjoy a winning start to the 2010 World Cup though, then Rajevac will need to put one over 61-year-old Antic, a coach who has managed the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid during a lengthy managerial career.

Rajevac explained: "Radomir Antic is a very experienced coach, he worked for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, he won two cups with Atletico.

"He's also my friend and of course this will remain after the game, but during the game we will try to do the best for our teams.

"I've been living with my team for two years, we've reached the World Cup and we will try to do our best here."

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