Over seven months have elapsed since Ghana qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, giving coach Sellas Tetteh extended preparatory time as he seeks to give his side the best possible chance of success at the tournament which begins in 11 days time. After reaching the final in 2001, the Black Satellites failed to qualify for the next three finals in UAE, Netherlands and Canada respectively, until they defeated all challengers in Rwanda early this year.
A 1-1 draw in their opening match with Cameroon was the only blotch on their copybook, as they defeated Mali and the hosts 2-0 to set up a semi-final match with South Africa, which they won 4-3. The Indomitable Lions were their opponents in the final, which they comfortably won 2-0, thanks to two goals from Ransford Osei, one of the stars of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007. "It was gratifying to me that we did not just win, but we also played beautiful football," commented Tetteh after the victory.
Since then, the Ghanaians have embarked on an intensive schedule. After winning in Rwanda, they played in Bulgaria, before playing in a four-team tournament in Egypt. They now find themselves at the Aspire Football Academy in Doha, Qatar, before moving on to Tunisia to re-acclimatise before their first game kicks off against Uzbekistan on 26 September in Ismailia.
Ghana also have to face England and Uruguay in their group, a tough test which is not lost on Tetteh. "Sometimes when you're in such a difficult group, you have to work very hard and it brings the best out of the team," he told FIFA.com. "In Korea 2007 and in Rwanda this year, we were in a very difficult group, but we came out of it.
"But it's not good talking about the world title now, though we have play for it. We can't afford to look any further than our preparations - and we haven't got every member in the squad here with the various European leagues just getting started.
"I like the balance of the team we have and we are going to fine-tune them to get what we want. We have 24 now and, for the tournament, we would need 21 out of which three goalkeepers are constant. I expect that to raise the level of competition."
Names in the provisional squad include Real Madrid's Daniel Opare, Sampdoria's Rabiu Mohammed, and Atletico Madrid's Sadick Adams, who missed the CAF African Youth Championship earlier this year. Marseille's Andre Ayew, the son of footballing legend Abedi Pele, is the team captain.
According to Tetteh, the team have been training at night in the "superb and unbelievable" facilities in Doha in order to cope with the oppressive temperatures in the Middle East. The late night sessions allowed the group to do some bonding, particularly on Sunday afternoon when they watched Ghana's senior side defeat Sudan 2-0 , a result which secured the Black Stars place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
"We watched it as a team and we were able to watch it live," smiled Tetteh. "We were so happy. We knew that we would get to the World Cup, but we were almost expecting it on Sunday, because we had beaten Sudan before and we knew it would be very difficult for them, because they were fasting. But still, we are there - and that is great for the country."
And who knows? Some of the players who celebrated that result in front of the television set might make the squad to South Africa. At Egypt 2009, they have a great chance to impress.