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Serbia vs Ghana – the battle of the World Cup dark horses

| 12.06.2010

Both Serbia and Ghana have received plenty of votes as most fancied outsider to win the World Cup. Sunday’s game, which kicks off at 3pm Sunday, will show which, if any, is more deserving. Serbia are 6/5 favourites.

It’s the White Eagles of Serbia against the Black Stars of Ghana, and while Serbia have never appeared at the World Cup as an independent nation, Ghana were one of the surprises of the 2006 tournament, when they beat the USA and the Czech Republic to make it into the last 16.

This time round, however, they are without midfielder Michael Essien, by far their best player, and they are the weakest of the five African teams to qualify, according to the FIFA rankings. Their preparations have included defeats to Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Netherlands, who put four past them.

One possible advantage is that they have a Serbian manager, Milovan Rajevic, who says “I am 100 per cent Ghanaian”.

The Serbs have gone out of their way to confuse potential backers with their preparations. While they qualified with impressive efficiency, losing just twice, including one to Lithuania in their last game after they were already assured of topping the table, they somehow contrived to lose to New Zealand in a warm up.

Given that they also sport a fearsome defence, including Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United, Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea and Lazio’s Kolarov, who is likely to feature prominently in this summer’s transfer market, they surprised many by beating Cameroon 4-3 in their last preparatory game.

Their striker Milan Jovanovic was the group’s second top scorer in qualifying, and he is 7/1 to score first on Sunday. Birmingham new boy Nikola Zigic is favourite to net first at 11/2. Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan is the most Ghanaian to get for the first goal at 7/1.

Serbia are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet, but although Ghana lost two of their three warm ups, they still managed to score in all them. And although Ghana won their last warm up against Latvia, they failed to win any of their last ten games against non-African opposition, stretching back to October 2006.

Fancy picking an outsider to win Group D? Germany are favourites, but Serbia are 3/1 and Ghana 9/2



Ed Needham