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23.03.2007 Football News

Starlets Can’t Miss Bronze

Two achievements eluded Ghana last Tuesday at the Africa Under-17 football championship in Togo: a chance to claim the continental title for a record third time and Fred Osam Duodu's inability to become the first coach to win the title twice with two different nations.

Rather, the Black Starlets are left to contend for third place in Sunday's match against championship debutantes, Tunisia, at the Kegue Stadium in Lome.

In their absence, 2001 winners, Nigeria, have a chance to equal Ghana's two-time winning effort when they play host nation Togo in Sunday's final at the same Kegue Stadium.

The shame of the climax will be the absence of a Ghanaian side that showed promise at first and won their favourite status on merit upon their 6-0 demolition of Eritrea in a Group B game.

Everything they have touched since has failed to glitter, and their elimination by Togo remains the biggest upset result at the tournament so far.

Osam Duodu attributed the setback to biased officiating and called on African countries to” learn how to play football” in order not to be disgraced on a bigger platform as the World Cup where Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and Tunisia will represent the continent.

The effusions from the experienced coach who won the championship with The Gambia as hosts two years ago may be without justification if his team fails to grab the bronze.

Tunisia coach, Kanzari Meher, believes the best sides are in the final despite his high regards for the Ghanaian team.

His counterpart, Osam Duodu, appears distraught by the realities of last Tuesday's 1-2 semi-final loss to Togo.

By his outburst against Referee Omgba Zing of Cameroun, he possibly surrendered his fate into the hands of an all-powerful arbiter, a situation only the determination of the players can salvage.

Their party, which has more at stake for first timers Tunisia than for the two-time world champions Ghana, also provides a last chance for Ghana's Ransford Osei, Sadick Adams and Ishmael Yartey to beat the four goals held by leading scorer, Macauley Chrisantus of Nigeria. All three players have three goals apiece.

That game will be a fitting prelude to a climax that involves the host nation as enacted in The Gambia in 2005.

Two personalities, bearing contrasting characteristics, will define the final: Nigeria's Ayodele Tella exudes unimaginable confidence and a strong sense of conviction and understanding about his efforts and expected result, while Samer Abraw of Togo appears to lack in confidence and has driven on the path shaped more by grace.

When he said “We are ready for any team in the final” after reaching their first in the championship, he summed up the feeling that the worst was behind them.

Togo's dramatic wins first against Gabon, and then against Ghana have, however, robbed them of the status accorded Nigeria who have scored in every single match at the tournament.

Even when they looked out of sorts against Burkina Faso despite their 2-1 win, Coach Tella's statement that “Ghana is next to fall” came to pass.

“The cup is going to Nigeria” is his latest quote and the professor at the Nigeria Institute of Sports (Nigeria's equivalent of the Winneba Sports College in Ghana) is being taken on his words since he believes “there is nothing we can do about it” when officiating does not appear to be in his favour.

Past champions:

1995 - 28/5/95: Ghana - Nigeria 3-1 (Mali)

1997 - 24/5/97: Egypt - Mali 1-0 (Botswana)

1999 - 30/5/99: Ghana / Burkina Faso 3-1 (Guinea)

2001 - 3/03/2001: Nigeria / Mali 3-0 (Seychelles)

2003: - Cameroun vs. Sierra Leone 1 - 0 (Swaziland)

2005: - Ghana 0-1 Gambia (The Gambia).