History was made on Friday night when Ghana’s talented Black Satellites became Africa’s first FIFA Under 20 World Cup champions; defeating Brazil 4-3 on penalties after a pulsating 0-0 draw in normal time.
The performances of Golden Shoe and Golden Ball winner Dominic Adiyiah, striker partner Ransford Osei, centre defender Jonathan Mensah and energetic right back Samuel Inkoom will no doubt draw deserved praise and potential interest from some of Europe’s more illustrious clubs. These individuals certainly contributed heavily to Ghana’s success, but it was the side collective ability to learn from their mistakes and understand different systems of play that impressed me more.
The side had glaring deficiencies early on in the tournament, in defence; their goalkeeper Daniel Agye’s distribution from the pass-back was poor, their back four seemed prone to lapses in concentration – not helped by the ‘gung-ho’ attacking mentality of their two full backs – and the organisation when defending set pieces looked neither zonal or man-marking. In attack they looked at times predictable tending to play wide out of defence with either full back supporting the two wingers with an overlapping run, they would ignoring the simple pass into the middle of midfield – that would have centralised their opponents – and left space on either wing and in more advanced positions.
But in the sides last two games of the tournament they showed how they had developed into a team that could attack with variety – particularly in their devastating first half performance against Hungary – and put in defensive displays that even Grande Inter’s Catenaccio pioneer Helenio Herrera would have been proud of.
This team grew into champions right in front of our very eyes. In the final, the Ghanaian goalkeeper pulled off arguably the save of the tournament, denying Giuliano what seemed a certain goal. Their defence looked impenetrable, particularly from set pieces, and when they attacked it was with variety and flair.
With Ghana’s senior team already qualified for the 2010 World Cup, there is real hope that their young Satellites could rise to become Black Stars in the very near future.