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How 'Milo' nearly became Appiah's cup of tea

Milovan Rajevac 06.10“He came to the dressing room after the match,” Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah revealed after sealing a 7-3 aggregate triumph over Egypt in the return fixture of the sides’ 2014 World Cup qualifying play-off tie.

"I didn’t know that he had come for the match, but he came to us and greeted myself and the players, congratulating us for qualifying for the World Cup."

"He", being referred to here by the 53-year-old, is Milovan Rajevac, coach of the Black Stars between 2008 and 2010. The Serbian was Appiah’s boss at the last World Cup.
The man who, but for a twist in circumstances, might have been Appiah’s opposite number over the two legs against Egypt, and could have been cursing and sobbing in the Cairo Military Stadium's home dressing room on Tuesday night instead of patting his former deputy's back for a job well done.

Rajevac and Appiah combined so admirably to engineer a quarter-final run for Ghana at South Africa 2010 to much local and global acclaim. For the former, however, there was not enough motivation to continue as coach of a side that had obviously overachieved on the biggest stage of them all. By September 2010 - when the applause for that splendid performance at the Mundial had begun to ebb - Rajevac exited rather unceremoniously and sought pastures anew in the Gulf, taking up employment first with Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ahli, and later with the Qatari national side - all in the space of just under a year.

Barely 12 months after turning his back on Ghana, Rajevac was job-hunting again. And then Egypt's national team came calling.

Well, they almost did.

As it happened, the Egyptian FA was seeking a substantive manager at the time to replace the incredibly successful Hassan Shehata who had abandoned the Pharaohs in the midst of a failed Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

Four men were shortlisted for consideration: Colombian Francisco Maturana, American Bob Bradley, Rajevac himself, and Zoran Filipovi? his countryman.

Eventually, only the second and third remained, with the former ending up with the job. Rajevac, since that disappointment, has been without a managerial role. Meanwhile, his protégé, Appiah, has gone on to greater heights, maturing some more under Rajevac's successor [as coach of Ghana] and fellow Serbian Goran Stevanovic.

Having earned his wings, the former Black Stars captain stepped up to work as head coach of the four-time African champions in April 2012 and has indeed excelled since, becoming the first Ghanaian to lead the nation to a World Cup berth.

Appiah's erstwhile mentor, Rajevac, was present at the game that saw the ex-national star consummate that feat, as mentioned earlier, and duly congratulated him on his remarkable achievement. Perhaps, though, it had been the composition of the opposition against whom it was all sealed that gave Rajevac particular delight.

Alongside each other, Appiah and Rajevac experienced bitter-sweet memories against Egypt and Bradley.

A late Nagy Gedo goal sank a spirited yet youthful Ghana setup in the final of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola to give the Pharaohs their seventh and most recent continental title. Four months later, Ghana decimated a Bradley-coached USA in a World Cup Round of 16 clash after extra-time.

Remember, too, that Bradley was the reason why Rajevac missed out on the last coaching job he had a real shot at.

Somehow, though, you'd think both men - Rajevac and Appiah - should be rather grateful things did turn out that way, otherwise they could well have been thrown into the path of each other's ambitions in a most cruel manner.

In an interesting case of co-incidence, Gedo scored one of Egypt's two goals against Ghana in Cairo, while Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng - the pair that got the Stars' strikes versus the USA on said occasion - teamed up for the west Africans' consolation on the night.

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