Ghana’s claim to football fame could not have been possible without the sustained contribution of the Male U17 team. Since 1989, Ghana’s Black Starlets have managed to stamp the name of Ghana in the memory of many global football fans. A new season of unearthing male U17 talents have began in earnest with the King of Coaches Emmanuel Kwasi Afranie in charge. Early indications are that Mr. Afranie needs extra work if he is going to live to the set standard by the likes of Sam Ardey, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, Isaac Paha and even he himself.
GHANA 3:0 LYBIA
Afranie’s class of 09 eased past Lybia in their first leg Afriacn U17 encounter on Saturday August 30, 2008. Prior to this game, the Black Starlets class of 09 had won a few games in style. They had even won a four-nation tournament.
Many fans who went to Ohene Djan to watch them, were therefore expecting a vintage performance. Well, the Starlets did not really twinkle as expected. Mr. Afranie’s team could only manage three goals without a reply in a game they could have won by 10 goals without reply.
The game lacked the entertainment which characterized Black Starlets games. The Lybians were not a quality side. Ghana lined up a traditional 4-4-2 attacking formation with emphasis on wing play. Right winger Mohammed Alhassan and two-goal hero and left winger Felix Adjei got off to a fiery start, taking the ball to the attacking third and supplying strikers Mahatmah Otoo and Frank Acheampong with some good crosses.
In the 6th minute, Mohammed Alhassan took the ball down the right flank, outpaced his marker and supplied a cross to Felix Adjei who converted the chance into the first goal. 9 minutes later, Felix Adjei took advantage of a goal mouth melee to add another goal to his collection. Substitute Nsor Kwame made full use of his height when he connected Mohammed Alhassan’s cross with his head to score with his first touch of the ball in the 59th minute.
A three goal score line cannot draw any reaction but congratulations. However, this team is not done yet. Thankfully, this is not the final team. The several loopholes in the team may block Ghana’s chances to move all the way to the World U17 championship if immediate steps are not taken to address the clear problems the team has.
POSITIVES OF CLOSS OF 09
Afranie’s team has potential. With the exception of striker Kwame Nsor who doesn’t seem to understand the role of a striker, all the boys who made the core of the team had load of untapped potential. One can easily tell that with a little work on cohesion and mentality, this is a team that is going places.
Height Height Height
Class of 09 may go down in the history of the Black Starlets as the tallest in terms of average team height. Afranie and Frimpong Manso have carefully selected players into positions with height in mind. The first team had only two distinctly short player – left back Ibrahim Moro as well as captain and midfielder Kwame Frimpong . The rest are of good height especially the central defender Samuel Abeiku Ainooson, striker Kwame Nsor, goal keeper James Nkansah and midfielder Mohammed Fatau. Thankfully, Ghana is clearly departing from using vertically challenged footballers.
Flanks and Speed
Clearly, Ghana’s strength lies in the speed and skill of our wingers. The lateral defender are hard working and constantly push the ball forward. E. K. Afranie had to keep reminding right back Isaac Eshun not to push too deep as winger Mohammed Alhassan did most of the right wing attack. These two partnered with Mahatma Otoo to put so much pressure on the Lybian left back Mutasem Guma that by the 15th minute he was left panting for breadth. Guma however played very well and did his best to contain the pressure.
On the left flank, super talent Ibrahim Moro partnered perfectly with Felix Adjei to make Ghana’s left flank as dangerous as it should be. Moro’s impresses with his tackles and his spontaneous ability to dash forward and drive home long shots. His 30 yard long drive in the 20th minutes hit the woodwork.
When they get their passes going, they are a marvelous team to watch. Once a while all the stylishness is converted into telepathic inter passes and swift flowing football.
The name E.K Afranie is synonymous to football development in Ghana. Several generations of talented Ghanaian footballers owe their discovery to coach Afranie. The coach’s experience in raising the World Cup winning 1991 squad and the World Youth Championship silver winning 2001 squad speaks volumes of his caliber at youth level. Hopefully, Afranie will channel his tons of experience from the past into this side which is obviously crying for grooming.
WEAKNESSES OF CLASS OF 09
In 2003 and 2005, Ghana had the worse Black Starlets squads in the history of the U17s. Keen followers of the Starlets believe this present team could end up like them if Afranie and Frimpong Manso do not take immediate steps to transform the squad.
I don’t know what to do with the ball
A good number of the players seemed to have the ‘I don’t know what to do with the ball’ mentality. They usually held on to the ball, scurrying about in a somewhat confused posture. In the end, they tended to over elaborate and finally lost the ball attempting unnecessary moves and ricks. Had the Lybian team not been weak, the results would have been different. If this team fails to reach its full potential, it will be because of selfishness o the part of the players and the tendency to play to the gallery.
Leakage in Midfield
Ghana is known for the power of its midfielders. Many successful Ghanaian teams are constructed around good midfielders. Quite to the contrary, the midfield is the achiles tendon of Starlets class of 1999’s. Mohammed Fatau and Felix Kwame Frimpong could not man the centre of the pitch to my satisfaction. But for the low quality of the opposition, they two players would have been exposed. Although they won a few tackles and supplied the attacking pair with a few balls, the central midfield pair often lost the ball when challenged or when they passed it. This makes the team’s midfield look very unbalanced and shaky.
Poor Sense of Judgment
I had cause to question the intelligence of some of the players. Deputy captain and central defender Samuel Abeiku Ainooson always got me wondering about the quality of his judgments. I am convinced that if he is not worked on, Ainooson will be a victim of intelligent strikers in the near future. Speedsters may run him riot and he could cost us dearly.
Striker Kwame Nsor does not seem to have a complete understanding of positioning. Here is a striker whose height is supposed to work wonders for him. Yet, for the entire 32 minutes he spent on the pitch, Nsor was only in empty space for a cross once, during which he scored from a header. Nsor should begin to think of being a goal keeper if he cannot improve in his game.
Skipper Kwame Frimpong has skills, but he doesn’t seem to know when to chose between passing the ball and holding on to it
Class of 09 hasn’t even gone beyond qualifiers to the African U17 cup and they are already overconfident, playing as though they had no equals in the world. Confidence is good for every team, but not when you play as if the opposition team is made of corn growers. If all this confidence resulted in a desire to take shots at the goal keeper, I would be glad, but when it matters most, class of 09 cannot shoot. Only Ibrahim Moro was confident enough to try shooting. Later when Mubarak Moro came on in the 77th minute, he also attempted a few more shots from outside the box.
Clearly, coach Afranie needs to add to the depth of this team. We have to cast open the net for others equally competent players to justify their inclusion into the team; whether they live in Ghana or abroad. The present team is good, but they cannot win any meaningful tournament in this shape.
There are other equally qualified Ghanaian players all over the world who are below 17 years. It will do the technical bench and the entire nation a lot of good if more and more players are given the chance to prove their worth for possible inclusion into the team. At this time, if we don not smartly include some of these players, other countries will whisk them away. Players are needed to fill the yawning gaps in midfield and in front of goal.
The technical team will have to work on the mentality of the team. Not knowing what to do with the ball, not taking games serious, not wanting to win big, easily losing the ball among other things will not help a winning mentality.
We have to work on shooting. Sam Arday’s class of 05 were known for their ability to shoot from anywhere on the pitch. Even Michael Abu the goalkeeper was a good shooter of the ball. Our strikers will have to be consistently encouraged to practice take their chances when they arise.
History teaches us that if an U17 class fails at this level, they fail at every level. Between 2001 and 2005, Ghana’s U17 failed woefully. It is of little wonder that Ghana has failed in all U20 and U23 competitions hence. IT is therefore important that Afranie tightens all knots on this team as we march forward to greater heights.
If there ever could be an explanation why Ghana male U17 players are huger and look more matured than their female counterparts, it will not come from m because it beats my imagination.
1. James Nkansah (GK)
2. Isaac Eshun (RB)
3. Ibrahim Moro (LB)
4. Ainooson Abeiku Samuel (CB)
5. Masawudu Basit (CB)
8. Kwame Frimpong (MF) (67′)
10. Mohammed Alhssan (RM/WING) (77′)
11. Adjei Felix (LM/WING) (58′)
14. Mohammed Fatau (MF)
17. Frank Acheampong (FWD)
18. Otoo O. Mahatma (FWD)
6. Aaron Amoah (67′)
7. Moro Munarak (77′)
9. Kwame Nsor (58′)
12. Ibrahim Samed
13. Fidel Bortey
15. Odoi Emmanuel
16. Adu Ernest