'Future is bright for beaten Ghana'

January 24, 2006

PORT SAID, Egypt, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Coach Ratomir Dujkovic believes Ghana will become the new dominant power in African football and that the continent has a bright future thanks to FIFA.

Dujkovic, whose injury-hit side lost 1-0 to Nigeria in their African Nations Cup opener, says soccer development programmes being funded by the game's ruling body will unleash a new wave of talent.

'In Africa, apart from the north and south which are like Europe, the rest of the countries don't have the facilities for football,' he told reporters at the team hotel on Tuesday.

'And for that reason, I am very pleased that FIFA is putting money in to develop football in Africa.

'They have the talent, and with the money, they will become much better than they are now.

'That will also be good for European clubs because players will come from Africa to play in Europe.'

But he added: 'They will be expensive. Not like now. Now they are very cheap.'

The Serbian coach believes his team, who have qualified for their first World Cup in Germany, are only the start of a Ghanaian rise to power in the continental game.

'I believe that Ghana will be the strongest in Africa in the coming years because we will now receive big money from sponsors, FIFA etc, and that will give us the facilities to do much better work.'

Dujkovic, who was on the coaching staff of Red Star Belgrade when they won the European Cup in 1991, said money was a barrier for promising youngsters in the west African country.

'The problem with Ghana is that they don't have youth competitions, they have only a few academies and they don't have under-20 or under-17 leagues.

'They have to start on that, they have to build those competitions.

'You can't just select from academies because not every child can go to an academy because of the cost. But if they arrange leagues for youth competitions, any child with talent can come to practise and to play.

'And they have some very good talent in Ghana.'

MISSING ESSIEN

Looking ahead to Friday, his re-shuffled team face another tough Group D game against Senegal, who were 2-0 winners over Zimbabwe on Monday.

Ghana are missing Chelsea's influential central midfielder Michael Essien, holding player Sulley Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan at these finals, but were only beaten by a late free kick on Monday.

'It's very difficult, of course,' Djukovic said. 'If you don't have one key player that affects the team.

'But if you have three, you can imagine. In terms of morale, though, we are okay.'

In the circumstances, he said, 'I'm satisfied with the commitment against Nigeria, everybody gave 100 percent so I cannot complain.

'For the next match, we just need to be more lucky and to score goals from what will be few opportunities.'