Ghana is in danger of missing out on the final tournament of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2009, needing to overturn a 3-1 deficit against Senegal in Friday’s second leg of the final round.
The Black Satellites, global and continental champions in 2009, must overcome a Senegalese side, which has served their biggest headache in the qualifiers thus far, when the two sides lock horns in the coastal city of Cape Coast, also the ancient capital of the West African country.
At least a 2-0 win will be enough for Mas-Ud ‘Didi’ Dramani’s charges to end the dream of Joseph Koto and his boys, who were clearly the best side in the first leg in Dakar a fortnight ago.
The Satellites have found a new home in the newly built ultra-modern Cape Coast Stadium, putting four unanswered goals past Ethiopia in the first official match at the 20,000-capacity stadium last month to book their place at the last hurdle.
Dramani, who has endeared himself to Ghanaian football fans after guiding the Black Maidens to a historic bronze finish at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2012 coupled with two domestic league titles with Asante Kotoko, faces one of the toughest test in his coaching career, a move which has seen him hand call-ups to Ropapa Mensah and Frederick Yamoah of local side Inter Allies for the crucial clash against the Senegalese.
“The party is far from lost. We are very hopeful and I know we are capable of doing it. The boys know how important that event [tournament] is to their development as individual players and the team as a whole. We know more about the opponent and the preparation and approach will not be the same”, Dramani told the media after the defeat in Dakar.
Despite the two goal advantage, Senegal coach Koto insists there is all to play for in the return leg against Ghana, ranked amongst the elites of youth football on the continent.
“It’s a good result but nothing is done in the direction of qualification. We will start the second leg as if it was 0-0 in the first leg. We will go to Ghana and look for a positive result. With the team we have, we fear no one”, Koto stated.