FIFA U-20: Class of 2009, the worse yet?

Already, the debate is picking up whether Ghana’s present U-20 team is the most untalented junior team Ghana ever put up. With two match days to go, I figure these comparisons are completely premature. This is because Ghana is likely to win the Egypt 2009 version of the FIFA Youth Championship and put to bed all the debate. I will however jump into this debate and attempt to correct some of the misconceptions while we all wait to celebrate with Andre Ayew and his charges on the 16th of October 2009 when the lift the cup.

Ghana has participated five times in the FIFA Youth Championship since debuting in the Australia 1993 games. So fare Ghana has featured in the Malaysia 1997, Nigeria 1999, Argentina 2001 and Egypt 1999. At this level of football, Ghana has never fallen below the quarter-final level; Egypt 2009 inclusive. Ghana’s best performance s were however in 1993 and 2001 when the Black Satellites played in the finals. So given this standard, how do we compare the performances of these teams and conclude that the Egypt 2009 is the worse Ghana ever assembled ?

One way to test this hypothesis will be to ascertain the extent to which each of the 5 teams played the kind of entertaining football (popularly known as Agoro) some Ghanaians love to enjoy. However, this yardstick may not be valid in the sense that we may not be able to draw any objective conclusions. Such questions as what is entertaining football will never get consistent answers and we may find measurement difficult. Our conclusions will thus be mere subjective. Alternatively, we could compare the team on such measurable indicators as attack potency, defence strength, midfield strength and quality of squad.

Given the difficulty of finding the needed data. I have decide to use four indicators to compare these U-20 teams – matches played; goals scored; goals conceded and who scored (number and role). The number of goals scored represent the attack potency of the squad. The defensive strength is measured by the number of goals conceded. I use the number of midfielders scoring (holding the tactical shape of the team constant) as a proxy for strength of the midfield while the number of players scoring these goals is an indication of the depth of quality of the team. While conducting these comparisons, I assume that all the five teams faced similar opposition and played under similar conditions (refereeing, weather, crowd noise, coaching capabilities, management team capability, teams morale, scout interference etc etc) .

So, now that I have set the context, how does the Egypt 2009 team compare with previous teams? It is only logical that we start from the supposed poor team, the 2009 squad.

Egypt 2009 – Coach: Mr. Sellas Tetteh
Matches played: 5 (so far)
Goals scored: 13 (2.6 per game)
Goals conceded: 6 (1.2)
Who scored: 4 players – Dominic Adiyiah (x6); Ransford Osei (x4); Andre Ayew (x2) and Mohammed Rabiu (x1)

Australia 1993 – Coach: Mr. Fred Osam duodu
Matches played: 6
Goals scored: 11 – 10 from open play, 1 penalty (1.8 per game)
Goals conceded: 6 (1 per game)
Who scored: 8 players – Augustine Arhinful (x4), Emmanuel Duah (x1); Charles Akornor (x1); Nii Odartey Lapmtey (x1); Isaac Asare (x1); Emmanuel Osei-Kufuour (x1); Daniel Addo (x1); Mohammed Gargo (x1)
NB: The 1993 team played one game less (because of fewer teams, there was no group of 16).

Malysia 1997 – Coach: Mr. Oti Akenteng
Matches played: 7
Goals scored: 10 (1.4)
Goals conceded: 5 (0.7)
Who scored: 8 players – Richard Ackon (x1); Baba Sule (x1); Awudu Issaka (x1); Joseph Ansah (x1); Peter Ofori-Quaye (x2); Stephen Appiah (x1), Bashiru Gambo (x1); Mohammed Muktar (x1)

Nigeria 1999 – Coach: Guiseppe Dosenna
Matches played: 5
Goals scored: 8 (1.6)
Goals conceded: 2 (0.4)
Who scored: 4 players – P. Ofori-Quaye (4x); B. Gyan (2x); O. Afriyie (1x); Tutu Adu Skeley(x1)

Argentina 2001 – Coach: Mr. E. K. Afranie
Matches played: 7
Goals scored: 8 (1.1)
Goals conceded: 3 (0.7)
Who scored: 6 players – Derek Boateng (x2); John Mensah (x1); Michael Essien (x1); Razak Ibrahim (x1); Abas Inusah (x1); own goal for Ghana (x1)

Let me first mention a few things all five teams had in common. All of them topped their groups. Apart from the 1993 squad that drew 2 games and won 1. All the other squads won 2 games and drew 1 game.

Lets do some comparison. It is very obvious from the acceptable statistics that class of 2009 has presented Ghana’s weakest U-20 defence so far. Using goals scored by midfielders as a way of assessing the strength of midfield (tactical shape not withstanding), the 2009 squad comes behind the 1993 squad (4 midfielders scoring) and the 2001 squad (3 midfielders scoring) and is at par with the 1997 squad (2 midfielders scoring). If the number of scorers is a signal of depth and squad quality, then the 2009 squad together with the 1999 squad (4 scorers) are the worse squads Ghana presented. The 2009 squad has however presented Ghana’s most efficacious attack since 1993. we only have a few more days to see whether the goal scoring ability of the 2009 squad alone is enough to propel Ghana to glory.

However you look at it, the 2009 squad is not as bad as some folk will have us believe. Go lads, the history is there to be made. Forget about the negative reviews. You are doing better than some people will have all of us believe. You lot have the biggest chance to be the first Ghanaians U-20 team to lift the cup!


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