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24.08.2005 Football News

Starlets profile to Peru

Raymond Yeboah

Ghana have traditionally enjoyed a special relationship with the FIFA World U-17 Championship, making four appearances in the final and twice claiming the global crown. But since they claimed third place at New Zealand in 1999, this tremendous breeding ground for talented footballers has, until now, failed to send another team to the main event. Winners of the African U-17 Championship in 1995 and 1999, the 'Black Starlets' left for this year's edition in Gambia confident of lifting the Ydnekatchew Tessama trophy for a third time and keeping hold of it for good. They came within a whisker of doing precisely that, ultimately falling to the hosts in the final, but it was enough to secure them a well-deserved berth in Peru.

And, with so much genuine quality in the side, the 2005 generation could well end up following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors. Solid in every department, their potential could come into full bloom in South America.

Qualifying It took a while for the Ghana to get going in the continental tournament. After a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Mali in which they twice fell behind, they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Burkina Faso that left them flirting with elimination. But thanks to a goal from Agyemang Opoku, they took all three points in their final group game against hosts Gambia and advanced to the semi-finals.

There they met the Côte d'Ivoire, and turned in their best performance of the competition with a clinical 2-0 win. However, David Duncan's charges were unable to overcome the Gambians a second time, and saw the trophy slip through their fingers as they succumbed to a goal in the dying moments. It was a major disappointment, yet a ticket to Peru 2005 will have no doubt softened the blow.

Coach Considered one of the most promising coaches in Ghana, David Duncan's club career includes spells in charge of Accra Great Olympics and Sekondi Hasaacas. Having restored the national U-17 side to the global elite after almost five years in the wilderness, he is a target for some of the biggest clubs in the country, including the famous Hearts of Oak club.

Star Player A true revelation at the 2005 African U-17 Championship, Agyemang Opoku hit the target in his team's first four games. A source of inspiration for Ghana, his pace, power and vision made him a constant handful for opposition defences. He was unable to score in the final, but he rose to the occasion nonetheless, excelling with his sublime touches and extraordinary dribbling skills.

Record

Winners at Italy 1991 and Ecuador 1995.

Finalists at Japan 1993 and Egypt 1997.

Third place at New Zealand 1999.

Qualified for Scotland 1989, but were eliminated in the first round.

Quote "I think we'll prove at the World Championship in Peru that we're the best." (David Duncan, coach)

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