With just hours to go until the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup (U20 WWC), it’s time to get familiar with Africa’s torchbearers. First up is Ghana. (Here is a look at Nigeria.)
Can the Black Princesses finally lift the World Cup voodoo and get past the group stage?
Hopefully, yes. After an incredible qualifying campaign, one can only hope that same execution will be replicated in the World Cup.
The Black Princesses reached their fifth successive World Cup by scoring an impressive 24 goals and conceding just two in the African qualifiers.
You have to go way back to the 2010 qualifiers for a better record particularly in defence.
Black Princesses did not concede a single goal then en route to earning their maiden appearance at the biennial tournament.
After a stellar qualifying campaign, crowned with a hard-fought win againt Cameroon, one would have thought Ghana’s toughest hurdle on the road to France 2018 had been conquered.
Not quite. Ghana FA was dissolved soon thereafter following the airing of journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ much-publicized Number 12 documentary.
Then came the news that Black Princesses Skipper Princella Adubea will be out for six months due to a knee injury.
Adubea scored 10 goals in the qualifying campaign, finishing as joint-topscorer alongside Nigeria’s Rasheedate Ajibade.
Nonetheless, after weeks of uncertainty, the establishment of a Fifa-Caf Liaison team salvaged the ship.
Tough stretch to the World Cup behind us, is this the year the Black Princesses finally get past the preliminary round?
World Cup appearance: 5th
Best World Cup finish: Group Stage (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016)
All kickoff times WAT (West African Time)
vs. France, Sunday 5 August, 17h30, SuperSport 7
vs. Netherlands, Wednesday 8 August, 17h30, SuperSport 7
vs. New Zealand, Sunday 12 August, 14h30, SuperSport 7
Manager: Yussif Basigi
Captain: Rafia Kulchire
Players to watch: Ernestina Abambila, Sandra Owusu-Ansah, Grace Asantewaa
The only Ghanaian to score in the Uefa Women’s Champions League, midfielder Abambila is already a household name.
Her well-struck hit against USA in the 2016 U20 WWC is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
The 19-year-old, former FC Minsk’s player comes carrying the vision to locate teammates at a distance and score screamers.
Abambila, set to feature in back-to-back U20 WWC, also wins duels effortlessly and is quite versatile, effective wherever she is played.
The 18-year-old has been earmarked to fill the enormous gap left by the injured Adubea.
Owusu-Ansah will be marking her second successive U20 WWC as well, following her impressive debut in 2016.
She has already netted 7 goals in 10 competitive outings at U20 level, including against France in the 2016 U20 WWC.
Owusu-Ansah, just 16 then, curved a low shot past eventual golden glove winner French goalkeeper Mylene Chavas in the 2016 U20 WWC group match.
The two are set to face-off in the group stage yet again when Ghana take on hosts France in their tournament opener on Sunday.
Prior to her U20 debut in 2016, the former Caf Youth Player of the Year nominee had captained Ghana U17 to the knockouts of the 2016 U17 WWC.
Wins against heavyweights USA and Paraguay saw Ghana finish second behind Japan to advance to the U17 WWC knockouts as the only African nation still standing following Nigeria’s and Cameroon’s group stage exit.
Owusu-Ansah will now be looking to replicate this at the U20 world stage and lift Black Princesses to their first knockouts.
Surprise player of the tournament?
The Ampem Darkoa player is set to mark her U20WWC debut, having crowned her senior call-up with a Wafu 2018 title earlier in the year.
She is no stranger at the global stage, though, having suited up for Ghana in their impressive run in the 2016 U17WWC.
Her ability to ghost past opposition’s defense to create goal-scoring opportunities at will makes her one of the players to watch in the tournament
Despite the myriad challenges that hampered their preparations, Coach Yusif Basigi’s charges can fancy their chances of reaching the knockouts.
A tough ask but a draw against France, like in 2016, followed by wins against New Zealand and debutants Netherlands is feasible.
However, given the year it has been for Ghanaian football, the possibility of storming past the quarter-finals is pretty slim.
Probable starting XI
GK Martha Annan Kwofie – RB Justice Tweneboah, CB Belinda Anane and Blessing Agbomadzie, LB Linda Amoako – DMF Ernestina Abambila, Grace Acheampong and Grace Asantewaa – RW Helene Obeng, LW Anokye Olivia – CF Sandra Owusu Ansah.