Danning: No regrets
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Kofi Danning is honest enough to admit it: Australia are heading out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. And the irony is not lost on him that, had circumstances been different, he might have been looking forward to an extended stay at Egypt 2009.

Danning could, after all, just as easily be representing Ghana's Black Satellites in the last 16, given that he was born and spent the first seven years of his life in Kumasi. Yet if Danning is a Ghanaian by birth, he is an Aussie at heart. Though proud of his African heritage, the 18-year-old has no hesitation in nailing his colours firmly to the mast when some exciting early performances for Sydney FC merited talk of international recognition.

Indeed, it was only after a long and determined struggle that Danning five weeks ago received the green light to represent the Young Socceroos here in Egypt. As he explained to FIFA.com, this represented the realisation of a long-held dream, and offered him the opportunity to begin repaying a country to which he owes so much.

"I was scared that the clearance wouldn't come through in time, so I'm very grateful to be here at all," he said. "I have no regrets about my decision because I've lived in Australia most of my life and it has given me all the opportunities I have. I'm really thankful for everything the country and the Aussie people have done for me and, if I can, I want to give something back, hopefully through football.

I know it might seem strange to some people but I really do consider myself an Aussie; I feel it in my heart.
Kofi Danning

"I know it might seem strange to some people but I really do consider myself an Aussie; I feel it in my heart. The thing about Australia is that it's so multi-cultural and such a friendly, welcoming country that you very soon feel like you're a big part of it. That's why I always smile and am so proud whenever I pull on the green and gold."

So attached has Danning become to his adopted country, in fact, that he says the mere possibility of representing Ghana "never really came into my thinking". Intriguingly, however, had Australia only performed a little better in their section, the last 16 fixtures are such that the skilful youngster would have been pitted against the country of his birth. "That would have been amazing!" he enthused. "I've always dreamt about playing against Ghana and I'd love to do it one day, hopefully at a World Cup. I obviously still have a big connection there and I'll be supporting Ghana for the rest of the tournament."

A bubbly character with an infectious grin, Danning is young enough to be eligible for the next FIFA U-20 World Cup, but already has his sights set on the senior equivalent in 2014. "Hopefully by that time I'll be playing for a big club in Europe. Chelsea would be perfect. I know no-one really likes them anymore because of all their money, but they've been my club ever since [Gianfranco] Zola was there."

Refreshingly unguarded about his ambitions, Danning proved equally candid when it came to assessing the reasons for Australia's lacklustre showings thus far. His explanation? That passion has been lacking in a team unable or unwilling to be as ruthless as their rivals in the pursuit of victory.

He said: "When you look at the successful teams here, you can see how desperate they are to win games. They'll waste time if they have to, they'll fight, they'll do whatever is needed. Whereas, with us, I've felt at times like we've almost been going through the motions. I just don't think we've had that same attitude that 'Yeah, we're going to do whatever it takes to win this game'.

"That's what we'll need to do if we're going to have a chance against Brazil in our final match. We have nothing to lose now. They're one of the best teams in the world and, if we could beat them, for me it would be like winning the World Cup itself."