Debutante Princesses up for a fight

Ghana’s U-20 women’s team head off to their maiden FIFA U-20 World Cup in Germany this July as one of the tournament’s unknowns, but coach James Dadzie believes they will make an impact.

And it is true that his side were impressive in qualifying. The Black Princesses came through the African qualifiers without conceding any goals and decisively beat the Democratic Republic of Congo, who had been to the last two editions of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile and Russia, in their decisive qualifying tie. Ghana have previously been to the FIFA Women’s World Cup and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup but this is their first tournament appearance at U-20 level.

“Actually the core of this team is drawn from the under-17 side that played at the last World Cup,” explains Dadzie, who says although they may be rookies at this event there is already a sense within his squad of what competing at a world championship is all about.

The other key will be to psyche up the group. This is also very important to our chances, to have the girls feeling confident.

Ghana’s U-17 team acquitted themselves quite well at New Zealand 2008, and they were unlucky not to get through to the knockout stage despite a tough group. They drew with eventual champions Korea DPR, lost by a single goal to third-place finishers Germany and then beat Costa Rica 1-0.

But Dadzie, a former captain of Ghana’s Black Stars, warns against expecting too much. “There has been a bit of exposure, but it is likely to be a different level of football altogether in Germany,” he predicts. Ghana have a potentially taxing group, drawn with the defending champions, the United States, Korea Republic and Switzerland. They will play twice in Dresden before moving to Bochum for their final group match.

“Our group is a tough introduction especially when you consider the Americans are champions and the Koreans have done so well in women’s football lately,” says Dadzie. “We don’t know much about Switzerland, but we saw their boys win the U-17 World Cup in Nigeria last year. This is a country catching up in football and I think on paper all three are ahead of us in terms of their chances.”

Getting the mental part right But Dadzie insists the Princesses are not laying down before the fight, and despite his magnanimous words about his future opponents, there belies a steely determination in his words. “I believe we can have the better of our opponents with the right kind of preparation, and if we can fire the girls up to expectation,” the coach adds.

Dadzie, who was a CAF Africa Cup of Nations winner in 1978, says he believes there will not be much between the teams in terms of tactics and preparation. Ghana intend to spend a few weeks in Europe before the tournament starts on 13 July.

“I think we can do well with good physical conditioning and with technical ability. We have better natural technique and we are working on developing that even more. The other key will be to psyche up the group. This is also very important to our chances, to have the girls feeling confident,” he says. “Obviously we are awaiting the ultimate prize but we will take it in steps as the tournament progresses. We’ll be able to adjust our plans during the competition as we go from match to match.”

Dadzie will look to instil some of his own experience as a past captain of his country’s national team and from two Nations Cup finals tournament appearances. He was also an assistant coach at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Zealand in 1999 when Ghana introduced Michael Essien to the world. “I’ve had a little taste of what these World Cups are like, and I have some experience to pass on,” he says.