World Cup Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, June 13, 2010 (All times Eastern)

Serbia (0-0-0) vs. Ghana (0-0-0), 10 a.m.

Pretoria, South Africa (Sports Network) - Kevin-Prince Boateng made headlines on the international level before ever playing for Ghana, and now the German- born midfielder is set to make more on the field at the World Cup.

Boateng, who played for Germany at the youth level, injured German captain Michael Ballack in the FA Cup final playing for Portsmouth against Chelsea. Ballack was ruled out of the World Cup. Boateng, despite being vilified, stepped up for Ghana.

The 23-year-old Boateng made his first appearance for Ghana on June 5, going into central midfield to replace the injured Sulley Muntari in a friendly against Latvia. Boateng teamed with Anthony Annan in the holding midfield roles.

With Muntari, who helped Inter Milan win the Champions League final, battling a thigh injury and Michael Essien already lost to injury, Boateng could start Sunday when his country plays Serbia in the teams' Group D opener at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

"It was his first game and he played in an unfamiliar role for him but he handled it quite well. It is the role I want to give him but for a first game with Ghana he did well," Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac said.

Although Essien was the big injury news for Ghana leading up to the World Cup, possibly playing without Muntari is another blow. Ghana will need Boateng and others to step up, or advancing past the group stage will be impossible.

"There are other young and hungry players who will be equally passionate to play," Rajevac said on Ghana's website.

Ghana advanced to the knockout stage in 2006 but lost to Brazil. Rajevac still has more World Cup veterans, including defenders John Pantsil, John Mensah and Eric Addo, and goalie Richard Kingson, to mix in with the young talent.

Serbia, one of the most underrated teams in the World Cup, will provide a huge challenge in the opener. The Serbians won Group 7 in European qualifying with one of their two losses at France and the other in a meaningless match against Lithuania when a World Cup berth was already secured.

Serbia has been impressive under manager Radomir Antic, but has never faced a three-game stretch like the one that awaits them in South Africa. But led by defenders Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, the country - which makes up part of the former Yugoslavia, and Serbia and Montenegro - could surprise.

06/12 13:03:49 ET