Nearly 72 hours after their thumping 4-0 victory over the Ngorongo Heroes of Tanzania, Ghana’s Black Satellites oblige Morocco’s young Atlas Lions in a cagey Group C tie of the ongoing Africa Under-20 Nations Cup tournament.
This evening’s potentially tasty clash at Mauritania’s Stade de Nouadhibou, will generate an amperage of excitement with the two football powerhouses chasing a win that would automatically grant them an unruffled quarter-final berth.
The Satellites have not hidden their intentions of winning the Holy Grail, having vowed to sweep aside everything in sight to accomplish the dream.
But against the Atlas Lions, the doughty-charactered young Ghanaians are expected to face a Himalayan task as Moroccan football appears to be on the ascendancy now. Only three weeks ago, their senior compatriots clinched the CHAN trophy – a feat that would indubitably serve as the much-needed adrenaline for success.
It is worth noting that
Morocco missed the last seven AFCON Under-20 editions and as they were bidding goodbye at home to Mauritania for this championship, they were said to have promised the nation they were going to atone for the disquieting years of decay.
Champions in 1997 when they hosted and won, the young Atlas Lions this time find themselves in a different terrain where that raucous, intimidating home crowd they are used to, is missing.
In their opening Group C game on Tuesday against Gambia’s Baby Scorpions, the Moroccans struggled for points on a nervy night and had to rely on El Mehdi El Moubarik’s radiant first half spot-kick to walk off with victory – and move second in the standings behind Ghana.
Coach of the Satellites, Abdul Karim Zito, is however, optimistic his charges would be motivated zooming into the Morocco game after the flying start.
“Ghana is noted as slow starters in tournaments, but with this performance we’re happy. It is good to start with a win in your first game so it will propel my players to do more.”
Though they were WAFU B regional champions going into the Mauritania championship (just as Morocco, which won the UNAF Under-20 tournament), there are still a decent number of Ghanaians who are scared of placing their bet on the Satellites – arguing that they do not churn out the kind of champagne football freely exhibited by their 2009 golden predecessors.
Other fans, too, disagree with that assertion and insist this present generation has what it takes to go far – pointing to the likes of free-kick expert Percious Boah, Abdul Fatawu, Josephlo Barnes, Mathew Cudjoe and Daniel Afriyie among others.
At the backline, Frank Assinki, Nathaniel Adjei, Philimon Baffuor, Samuel Abbey Ashie Quaye, are also being counted upon to provide the necessary shelter for goalkeeper Danladi Ibrahim – as they attempt to hold off the threats of danger-men – Achraf Ramzy, El Moubarik and Zacaria Ghailan.
A Ghana victory looks very possible, but it would come with lots of fight and focus.
BY JOHN VIGAH