FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013

21 June - 13 July

FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013

Last-gasp hero Assifuah urges caution

© Getty Images

Players often talk about the dangers of falling behind in a match, but what does it matter if you and your team have a cast-iron belief in your ability to come back and win? As of Sunday evening, Ghana confirmed their reputation as the comeback kings of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 with a dramatic 4-3 extra-time victory over Chile, sealed with the most last-gasp of last-gasp winners. After the exhilarating encounter, the euphoric Black Satellites began their frenzied celebrations with body language and facial expressions conveying utter conviction and belief, as they contemplated a last four berth which looked more than unlikely just a week or so ago.

“We lost our first two matches at the tournament, but still made it through thanks to a big win over USA," Ebenezer Assifuah exclusively told after the final whistle on Sunday. “We came from behind against Portugal in the Round of 16, and now we've beaten Chile, even though they were in the lead. Believe me, we're bursting with confidence at the moment."

The 20-year-old striker, who plays his club football for Liberty Professionals FC, can be justifiably proud of his performance. He scored a vital brace, including the winning goal in time added on at the end of extra time, while making a huge contribution to the 2009 tournament winners in defeating the Chileans at Ali Sami Yen Arena in Istanbul. “I'm so happy. I wasn't able to score in all of our group games, but today I've got two. We have a wonderful team and I was able to help today," continued Assifuah, managing to combine elation with clearly sincere humility.

“We made a bizarre start to the tournament," coach Sellas Tetteh acknowledged in conversation with a few days ago, but there is no denying now that the Black Satellites are on fire at the finals in Turkey. However, despite their rapid progress over the last few weeks, the West Africans are firmly resisting the temptation to overreact, as Assifuah insisted: “Morale is soaring, and you can understand that. But I want to warn against us thinking we can rely on always turning games around."

We've used up all our luck. There's no way we can keep on conceding goals and let our opponents to take the lead.

The pacy and skilled Ghanaian No17 is already looking ahead to the semi-final clash with France in Bursa. “If we start believing we can allow ourselves to fall behind again, we'd be completely wrong. We've used up all our luck. There's no way we can keep on conceding goals and let our opponents to take the lead," he declared. Assifuah spoke these carefully chosen words to a backing track of his team-mates’ wild celebrations in the depths of the stadium, but his undoubted confidence was shot through with realism: “We can win the World Cup, but things have to change in terms of letting in goals."

For all his caution, Ghana have unquestionably produced a couple of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, with twists and turns throughout the drama, but always with the proverbial happy ending. They now rank as one of the best four teams at the tournament, and you might think their next goal would be revenge over the French for a 3-1 defeat in their opening match. However, Assifuah brushed aside the suggestion.

“Revenge? No, I can't and won't use the word," said the deeply religious striker when quizzed him on the subject. The answer speaks volumes for Ghana's mental balance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013. In the space of a few days, boosted by the dynamics of a successful run at a tournament, the players have rapidly matured. And their strength in adversity and never-say-die attitude could yet carry them all the way in Turkey.

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