Ebenezer Assifuah is not a name football fans across the globe are likely to forget in a hurry. The 20-year-old grabbed six goals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 to finish as top scorer, helping fire Ghana to a third-placed finish and earning him the adidas Golden Boot award.
“I’m very happy that I scored my sixth goal in the match for third place against Iraq today,” a still-disbelieving Assifuah said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com in the catacombs of Istanbul’s Ali Sami Yen Arena. “It was far from easy to get that many goals over the course of the tournament and I’m very proud of what I achieved.”
The No17 was an integral part of an extraordinary tournament turnaround for the Black Satellites. Even the most die-hard fans would have struggled to believe the 2009 champions would reach the latter stages of the competition in the wake of two frustrating opening defeats against Spain and eventual winners France. Ghana’s breakthrough came in the third group game against USA, with Assifuah on target twice in a 4-1 success. After a nerve-wracking wait, they sealed the last ticket into the knockout stages as the fourth best third-placed team.
Yet the drama did not stop there. After going behind to Portugal, the West Africans fought back to win 3-2, setting the stage for Assifuah to shine in a nail-biting quarter-final against Chile. Not only did the fleet-footed forward score the equaliser, he also hit the winning goal in additional time at the end of extra time to hand Ghana a 4-3 victory.
A proud test
Understandably, Assifuah has not yet had time to fully process the range of emotions encountered at Turkey 2013: “The tournament itself was fantastic and was a very interesting experience, but there’s no doubt it was a real test for me and the team. If you look back at our games and performances you can see what a challenge it was. That makes me all the prouder to have scored enough goals to win the Golden Boot and to have finished in third place with the team. It’s simply unbelievable.”
Assifuah’s penultimate strike came in the 2-1 semi-final defeat to France, before he added another in the 3-0 triumph over surprise package Iraq in the match for third place. That goal edged him ahead of Portugal’s Bruma and Spain’s Jese as the tournament’s sole top scorer. In contrast to his prowling on-field persona, the imposing forward, who plies his trade for Liberty Professionals FC in his homeland, was reserved about whether his exploits would serve as a springboard to a glittering career: “It’s not up to me. With help from above I hope I can go far. That’s what I pray for.”
Given Assifuah’s unusual ritual of hopping onto his right foot as he enters the pitch prior to a game, the interview would not be complete without FIFA.com enquiring about it. “It’s nothing really,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been doing it since I started playing football. It’s a habit I don’t want to drop - it’s brought me a long way hasn’t it? I think it brings me luck.” On the back of his displays over the last few weeks, nobody can argue with that.