We shall survive group – Satellites coach

Jimmy Cobblah

Jimmy Cobblah

GHANA’S national Under-20 team, Black Satellites, were last Thursday handed a tight group for the 2019 Nations Cup – with many wondering whether the team can survive the ‘acid’ test.

The Satellites are strapped in same group with venerated sides – Senegal and Mali as well as Burkina Faso – a growing force in youth football.

However, ‘sweat merchant’ of Satellites, coach Jimmy Cobblah, believes his charges have what it takes to survive the ‘tricky group’ and move on.

“I reckon we find ourselves in a tough, tricky and uncompromising group, but we are capable of surmounting the task ahead of us.

“Of course, it also means a lot of hard work, discipline and commitment from the boys as well as the technical team. We’ve got to work our fingers to the bone to ensure that we pull through,” he asserted.

According to the experienced trainer, the Satellites are determined to carve a niche for themselves and would “hold the bull by the horn” in next year’s tournament.

Ghana failed to pick a ticket to the 2017 edition, hosted and won by Zambia, having been halted by Senegal at the final qualifier.

Senegal was losing finalists in the last two editions. As hosts, the Junior Teranga Lions slumped 1-0 to Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in the 2015 edition before crashing 2-0 to Zambia two years later.

Just like Senegal, Mali are yet to win at this level, only finishing best on silver as far back as 1989 when they lost 2-1 to Nigeria in the grand final.

The last time Ghana and Mali met at the tournament was in 2015 with the Satellites running away with an emphatic 3-1 victory in an entertaining third-place game.

Burkina Faso are yet to make any significant inroads at this level, but finished fourth at the 2003 edition and have been rated by bookmakers to cause a stir in the group.

Three-time champions Ghana (1993, 1999, 2009), have failed to win the Golden Fleece in the last decade. The Satellites’ valiant effort to break the ‘stygian silence’ ended at the feet of Egypt who outmaneuvered them 5-4 on penalties, after a nerve-wracking 1-1 draw during the stipulated time.

Satellites qualified to the two-week tournament after thrashing Benin 3-1 at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium before holding the Young Squirrels to a sweltering 1-1 draw game in Cotonou to dance away 4-2 on aggregate.

Hosts Niger has been thrown into Group A alongside Nigeria, Burundi and South Africa for the Niger tournament that roars off from Sunday, February 24 to Sunday, March 10, 2019.

The top four teams of the tournament will qualify for the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland as CAF representatives. Defending champions Zambia failed to respond to the roll call.

From 1979 until 1989, the African representatives were determined purely on a home and away qualifying basis without a final tournament, with the African champions determined through the same qualification. Since 1991 there has been a qualifying stage followed by a final tournament played by 8 teams in a chosen country.

On August 6, 2015, the CAF Executive Committee decided to change the name of the tournament from the African Youth Championship to the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations, similar to the senior’s version, Africa Cup of Nations.

BY JOHN VIGAH

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