Words by Jimmy Aidoo
GHANA – African Youth Championship 3rd place finish
In GROUP B: with Argentina, Austria and Panama
Anybody who bothers to draw closer to the Black Satellites camp will hear one mantra that sticks out like a sore thumb in most of their conversations – Kun fa ya Kun – an Arabic phrase which is translated mildly as ‘Whatever will be will be!’
Ghana only managed a 3rd place finish at the African Youth Championship despite being the most attractive side at the tournament with their fast-paced, possessive brand of football. Many fans criticised Sellas Tetteh’s men for placing more premium wowing spectators with their ‘Keche’ – a Ghanaian term for playing crowd pleasing football – rather than focusing on getting the job done on the field of play as they showed against Nigeria in Senegal.
However, in Clifford Aboagye and Manchester City’s Yaw Yeboah they have two of the most creative players on parade in New Zealand. Their creativity and technique will prove an invaluable resource that suits the team’s tactical flexibility. New addition Godfred Donsah and inter Allies’ star Prosper Kassim provide extra width on the flanks.
Another player to watch out for is the lanky figure of Benjamin Tetteh who will be setting his sights on picking the Golden Boot award which his compatriot Ebenezer Assifuah won in the last edition. Beautiful football will be assured with the Black Satellites but they seem to have a bit of work to do on their overly-generous defense.
ARGENTINA – CONMEBOL champions
La Albeceleste need little or no introduction to Ghanaian football fans. They are the most successful side in the history of this competition with 13 previous appearances, ending six of them as champions.
But it is the taunting spectacle of a Javier Saviola-inspired demolition exercise carried out on a young Ghanaian side, which had the likes of Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and John Mensah, in the finals of the 2001 U-21 World cup that will linger on in the minds of a lot of Ghanaian fans when they take to the field on the 2nd June to battle Argentina.
This team, which is by no means lacking in pure talent, will head into the competition as clear favourites. They will be looking up to Humberto Grondona to provide technical and tactical guidance as they set out to win record 7th World title. He was in charge of the U-17 team who finished 4th two years ago in UAE and will be hoping to take the trophy back to Buenos Aires.
In inspired form going into the tournament is River Plate striker Giovanni Simeone, who is the son of none other than Athletco Madrid’s charismatic coach Diego Simeone. He will be forming a lethal partnership with Atleti forward Angel Correa as both won two of the most valuable awards – the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards, respectively – at the South American U20 tournament which they emerged triumphant.
AUSTRIA – UEFA semi-finalists
Austria picked one of the UEFA tickets to the World Cup in an unspectatular style but did just enough against Hungary and Israel to secure a semi-final berth. In Andreas Heraf they have a coach with a lot of experience up his sleeves having superintended the Austrian U21 team since 2008.
They are a compact side with some tactically mature individuals. The Black Satelites would have to pay close attention to Florian Grillitsch and midfielder Socha Horvath. The Austrian Football Federation is determined to have some of their most talented young players rise through the ranks to become full blown internationals.
PANAMA – CONCACAF runners-up
Panamanian youth football is on the ascendency, and they head to New Zealand as one of the most improved sides in the CONCACAF region having come so bitterly close to winning the tournament. In the end, they lost the final to a well grilled Mexican side on penalties but not before they brushed aside Aruba, Jamaica USA, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago without conceding a single goal.
Three words that will aptly describe them will be: discipline, coordination and focus. They could appear disjointed somewhat for long spells but in Ishmael Diaz they have a clinical and opportunistic striker who will always be there to convert chances that fall his way.
Like we’ve come to know with a typical Sellas Tetteh side, this team exciting in attack but careless at the back. From the AYC to their base in Australia, the Black Satellites have shown they have what it takes to find the goals and still remain coordinated doing that. Given the quality of opposition they would be facing in this tournament, if they are to do anything meaningful they would have to work on their back four.
For the many Ghana fans who will changing their sleep patterns to follow the competition, watching the Black Satellites this time will take a little bit of unusual courage as well as an open mind. If they should cross the quarter finals, I wouldn’t advise anyone to bet against Tetteh and his charges to go all the way.