For the first time in six years, Ghana's Black Starlets will be competing at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru which is in its 11th edition and 20th year, kicking off today and due for sign out on October 2.
Teenagers from Sixteen countries from around the, three each from CAF,UEFA,Asia, CONCACAF and South America including the host and a sole candidate from OFC (Oceania), will be vying for the converted trophy which is yet to be won by countries outside Africa, South America and Europe.
They are the Black Starlets of Ghana, Young Pavoni of host Peru, China's Zhang Ning and Costa Rica in Group A and Uruguay,Mexico,Turkey, Australia in Group B. Coach Osam Duodu led The Gambia are in G-D with thrree time winners and reigning world and South American champions, the Selacao of Brazil, consistent Asian qualifiers Qatar and European Cup silver holders, the Netherlands.Group D has the Baby Elephants of Ivory Coast to contend the Azzurrini of Italy, the United States of America and Republic of Korea.
The five venues for the tournaments will be in the cities of Lima, Chiclayo,Iquitos, Piura and Trujillo.
China and Costa Rica will square off in the opener whilst Peru and Ghana play in the second match of the day in Trujillo.In the capital Lima today, Uruguay play Mexico and Turkey takes on Australia.
Having enjoyed a special relationship with the World Under-17 Championship for eight years, measurable to the case of Brazil with the FIFA World Cup, Ghana's Black Starlets came closer to being proclaimed the masters of the game at this level of world footballl. However, after a bid for their fourth conservative grand final appearance got foiled by Brazil in 1999 in the semis,via penalty shoot-out, the Starlets lost touch of thier clincal form, missed out on the last two tournaments held in Trindad and Tobbago 2001 and Finland 2003 respectively..
Today the story is diffrent, the Black Starlets had announced their in-form calibre in Gambia where lost out the Ydnekatchew Tessama trophy in questionable circumstances and are in Peru, a region that harbours Ecuador, where they had their last triumph ten years ago, the bets are high on them.
Thankfully, the team has the best profile at the championship and can hardly therefore be intimdated. Records show that the Starlets were winners at Italia '91 and Ecuador '95, silver-coated at Japan '93 and Egypt '97 and wored bronze in New Zealand in 1999.An impressive pedigree for the Starlets that would be diffecult to be overlooked even by the Selacao of Brazil.They would therefore take the cup for keeps if they win Peru Championship.
Fortunately, the Starlets have been grouped with debutants.Except the Chiness who staged in 1985, the then Under-16 Championsip, the rest have always been away.The only recognisable fit chalked by a group memberis the Chiness Asian chamapionship win in Japan earlier this year and their quarter-final appearance in 1985.
Whereas Peru who are valid for the tournament by virtue of being a host, failed to even advance to the second round of the South American championship in Venezuela, Costa Rica has a team made of younsters who had to qualify after winning a playing off tie, 3-2 against Hondurasin the CONCACAF.
Having had their camping tour in Brazil proving useful with wins in all friendly matches, the Starlets are posed for a potencial re-claim of their unstoppable form of the 1990s.
What cannot be hidden is the fact Brazil,United States, Uruguay and Australia are odds at this level and the real threats to the survival of the Starlets in the competition.Ghanaian-born USA star, Fredu Adu, with his superb form in the USA Major League Soccer with DC United, will be playing in his second Under-17 Championship.
Brazil is in Peru with as usual a huge talent pool notable among them, Luis de Abreu Oliveira a prolific striker from Porto Alegre side Gremio who has already in 36 games, scored 18 goals for his home country. Ghana also can boost of the remarkable pace on the ball of the likes of Sadat Bukare, Opoku Agyeman,Wakasu Mubarak, Emmanuel Ansong ,Awudu Abubakari and Jonathan Quartey.
Peru 2005 is here with us but the atmosphere,compared with those of the gloriouse days of the Starlets are not electrifying so the sprit in the team might be one of sheer determination to glitter as their predecessors did.
Black Starlets coach David Duncan who earlier, out of anger after losing out theYdnekatchew Tessama , told the world that the Ghanaians will prove that they are the best, is reportedly content with team's preparation and thus, confidence of a good Starlets show.
Wheather the Peruvians or Costa Ricans or Chiness are fancied or not, the team need not play on the placards, complasecncy.
Starlets Squad: GK- Ernest Sowah, Seth Obodai and Nana Bonsu. Defenders- Adjetey Emmanuel, Tagoe James Danso Ernest Telfer David, Wakaso Mubarak, Oppong Samad,Quartey Jonathan and Ansong Emmanuel. Forwards- Salifu Razak,Agyeman Opoku Bukari Sadat,Abubakari Awudu, Appiah George and Asante ErnestMid-forward- Adakwa Anthony, Sogbe Francis andBoateng Charles