Ghana won the Africa Youth Champs All of African football's traditional powerhouses in youth football qualified for the continental event, with Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria's Flying Eagles leading the list of favourites and Ivory Coast and Egypt seen as possible spoilers.
The African Youth Championship had always been an eagerly-awaited affair, not only by fans but also by a bevy of world-class clubs, who routinely sent scouts in search of the Africa's emerging talent.
With the holders Congo having failed to qualify on this occasion, hosts Rwanda headed Group A along with Cameroon, Ghana and Mali.
Group B, meanwhile, looked especially imposing with Ivory Coast, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa vying for honors.
Five-time winners Nigeria who had dominated past events and were disappointed to finish runners-up in 2007 after winning the previous edition, their fifth overall, in 2005, got humiliated as they failed to impose themselves in the tournament.
Ghana played best football
After two weeks of action at the 16th African Youth Championship, Ghana's Black Satellites emerged the champions after a deserved 2-0 win over Cameroon in the final on Sunday.
Under Coach Sellas Tetteh, Ghana ensured that the AYC trophy returned to Accra after eight years of hard work.
Ghana came up against tough opposition but showed great technique to get the better of aggressive sides throughout the competition.
They entertained Africa with beautiful football, great technique and over all the best all round team, and finished the tournament unbeaten. Ghana's previous triumphs were in 1993 and 1999.
It relied on the scoring prowess of Ransford Osei, who even won the top goal scorer accolade with seven goals in the championship. The Israel based striker proved that he can hardly miss any scoring opportunity.
Ayew Dede, son of legend Pele, Osei, Dominic Adiyiah, Samuel Inkoom, Emmanuel Badu and central defender Jonathan Mensah were the most outstanding players in the Ghana squad.
Both Cameroon and Ghana protected their pride to reach the final as the unbeaten sides in a tournament where a total of 40 goals were registered and good football played all round.
The two West African rivals kicked off their campaign with a labored 1-1 draw in the group A match, and many observers did not expect the two giants to meet again in the final.
But as the event progressed, the two sides showed their full potential and pedigree, with Ghana hitting Rwanda and Mali with an identical 2-0 wins while Cameroon drew 1-1 with Rwanda before beating Mali 3-0 to finish second behind Ghana.
In the semi finals, Ghana survived a late South African onslaught to grab a 4-3 win, while Cameroon edged out Nigeria 2-0 to set the final on Sunday.
Unlucky S. Africa
In all respect, The Amajita went as far as the final of the 1997 tournament in Morocco with Benni McCarthy leading the attack and they were making their fourth appearance at the 2009 AYC.
South Africa reached the semi finals on merit, and as their coach Serame Letsoaka predicted earlier, they had come to Kigali as underdogs and anything beyond the semi finals was going to be a bonus.
And indeed, South Africa was outstanding, enjoyed their game and lost with dignity. They suffered a major setbacks leading to the tournament when several key players were not released by their clubs, including the Feyenoord striker Kermit Erasmus.
But Serame organised his young guns and they emerged the tournament's team which displayed credible football thus winning the hearts of the local fans.
The Nigerian squad was made up of many of the players who won the Fifa U-17 World Cup in Korea in 2007 but coach Ladan Bosso had been forced to deal with a fair amount of domestic criticism over his selection.
The team didn't perform as required though they were equipped with Sporting Lisbon prodigy Rabiu Ibrahim and Hamburg striker Chrisantus Macauley, the top scorer at Korea 2007 as they were helplessly defeated by rivals Cameroon 2-0 in the semi-finals but they went to secure a bronze after overcoming South Africa 2-1.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast proved that they had potential talents despite finishing bottom of Group B with no point. The hopes of the Young Elephants rest heavily on the shoulders of ASEC Abidjan's Cyriac Gohi Bi, who made a strong impression in last year's CAF Champions League.He was also the top scorer in the Ivorian league last year.
Ivory Coast had produced a solid team thanks from the famous Asec academy which nurtured some of the country's top stars that continued to remain a dominant force in youth football in Africa.
However, they didn't fulfill their true potential of winning as the finished bottom of group B with no point.
Egypt had largely unknown quantities but also possessed genuine potential.
Three-time winners of the AYC, Egypt that will also host the Fifa World Youth Championship later this year in September had poor preparations before embarking on their trip to Rwanda.
They started on a poor note losing 2-0 to Nigeria but showed great character by winning the second and third group matches against Ivory Coast and South Africa 2-1 respectively but failed to reach the semi-finals by a slim goal aggregates.
Finalists Cameroon displayed physical football throughout the tournament but this didn't earn them pride as the skillful Ghana put on the ground to tutor them one of the recent kinds of football.
The deadly Coton Sport duo of Brice Owona and Zoua Daogari were superb while Patrick Ekeng and Germain Tiko played a big role in the destruction of Nigeria to reach the finals.
Cameroon was seeking her second AYC title after the 1995 trophy won after a 4-1 win over Burundi.
Rwanda fall short
Hosts Rwanda coached by Obradovic Tomislav failed to make it to their-first-ever spot at a Fifa tournament though Tomislav had set his team the goal of claiming a place in the semi-finals.
The Junior Wasps which boosted four players in the senior team including skipper Haruna Niyonzima, Jean Mugiraneza, Jean Luc Ndayishimiye and Elias Uzamukunda failed to make any impression despite recording a 2-1 win over Mali and pulling 1-all draw against Cameroon(1-1) and needed to win the last group stage match against Ghana.
But the Black Satellites who also needed to qualify for the last four hit Rwanda 2-0 to end the Wasps' hopes of ever reaching the global finals.
Rwanda was happy with their achievements though.
A win over Mali and a draw against strong Cameroon was fulfilling to the Rwandan side who believe they have a strong team for the future.
The only sides that returned home without a point were Mali and Ivory Coast. It will really take time before the two sides rediscover their misfortunes in this competition.
Mali's outstanding player at the tournament was Yacouba Diarra who plies his profession in Tunisia's Etoile.
Mali's best showing at the AYC was fourth place at the 1995 tournament hosted by Nigeria.
Mali had proven a fine pedigree at youth level having finished third at the 1999 Fifa World Youth Championship in Nigeria with players like Barcelona's Seydou Keita in the squad but that didn't happen in Rwanda.
The South Africans on their part were rewarded with the Fair Play trophy for displaying incredible football in this tournament which will go into records as the best organised ever.
Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa joined hosts Egypt at the Fifa World Youth Championship due in September this year.
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