Ghana’s opening match against Germany did not turn out the way Ellen Coleman had hoped. On the day she became the only player to appear in all three FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup finals held to date, but the centre-half looked on helplessly as the Germans raced in to a 2-0 lead that she and her team-mates were unable to overturn.
On the bright side, however, Coleman and her defensive solidified after the second goal, allowing the African challengers to halt Germany’s ceaseless attacks, create chances of their own and come mightily close to rescuing a point against the European champions.
Though the post-match stats showed that the Germans shaded possession by 51 percent to 49, it was the Black Maidens who had more shots on goal: eight to their opponents’ seven.
Despite the narrow 2-1 defeat, Ghana’s compelling comeback against a team widely tipped to win the title has bolstered the experienced Coleman’s belief that her team can be competitive and that sometimes more can be learned from losing than winning.
“It was our first game and we promise that we’re going to win our next game and get out of the group,” she said afterwards. “We have a lot of belief in our team and in our ability. Though we couldn’t get the win in our first game, we need to keep our chins up and believe we can beat Uruguay and China. If we can get out of the group, I think we can make the semis or even the final here.”
It would have come as no surprise had the Ghanaians beaten Germany at the Dalga Arena on Sunday. This is the team, after all, that beat Brazil at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 and secured a 1-1 draw with eventual champions Korea DPR at New Zealand 2008.
Yet despite getting off to a losing start, the Black Maidens are still in control of their own destiny as they pursue their main aim of advancing to the knockout phase, a task that proved beyond them in their two previous appearances.
Four years ago, Coleman looked on as an unused substitute as they went out following a win, a loss and a draw, and two years ago their hopes of reaching the last eight were ended by defeats to Canada and Republic of Ireland.
“I didn’t get a chance to play in 2008 but I picked up experience,” she explained. “Then in 2010 I played a few games and went a bit further. I’ve been through a lot more since then, though, and I have a lot of self-belief. I’m a better player today. No doubt about it.”
Time will tell if Coleman’s confidence is rewarded with a long-awaited quarter-final place.