Ghana won the African Youth Championship with a dominant performance at the tournament in Rwanda over the last fortnight, underlining their superiority with a 2-0 win over Cameroon in yesterday's final. The Black Satellites will now lead a charge of five African counties at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 in September, including the host nation. They will be joined by the beaten finalists, along with the two unsuccessful semi-finalists, Nigeria and South Africa.
Ghana had just one blotch on their copybook as they strode through the opposition, the 1-1 draw with Cameroon in their opening group match on the first day, which ironically then became a rematch in the final. Surprisingly, given the west African nation's success in past FIFA youth tournaments, this is only the third time that the have won the African Youth Championship, which was being hosted for the 16th time. Ghana's previous triumphs came in 1993 and 1999 and they are now two championships successes behind Nigeria, who have won the continental U-20 title five times.
Ghana's success came on the back of a star-studded line-up, led by Dede Ayew, the son of three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele. But the best payer was patently their striker Ransford Osei, based at club level in Israel, whose twists and turns, pace, shooting ability and imposing physical presence singled him out throughout the tournament in Rwanda.
It was fitting Osei scored both goals in the final, taking his tournament tally to seven. Both goals were set up by Samuel Inkom, the first in the 23rd minute and the second, a simple tap-in, with just four minutes left.
Cameroon had several celebrity supporters seeking to help their cause, with Olympic triple jump champion Francoise Mbango joined by Roger Milla and the Indomitable Lions coach Otto Pfister. But they were outplayed by a Ghana side who will now have high hopes of becoming the first African country to win FIFA U-20 World Cup.
"It's gratifying to me that we did not just win but we also played beautiful football," said Sellas Tetteh, Ghana's coach, after Sunday's triumph.
Nigeria finished third, coming from a goal behind to beat South Africa 2-1 in the bronze-medal match. Rabiu Ibrahim and Frank Temile netted for the Flying Eagles, but it was a disappointing return for the tournament favourites, who used the bulk of the team that won the last FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea Republic, some 18 months ago.
South Africa exceeded their own expectations, after coach Serame Letsoaka was forced to leave several key players behind because of club commitments. It is only the second time that they have qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, their last appearance, at Malaysia in 1997, spurning a generation whose key players will form the backbone of their side at next year's FIFA World Cup™.