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Young Ghanians hope to inspire African football

sports Updated: Oct 17, 2009 13:15 IST

AP
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Ghana hopes its winning of the Under-20 World Cup will help change Africa's reputation as a continent of talented players but unsuccessful teams.

Ghana claimed the title with a penalty shootout win over Brazil in Friday's final. The Brazilians, runaway favorites, dominated the match and the tournament but lost their finishing touch when it mattered most in Egypt.

Ghana's exuberant coach, Sellas Tetteh, said victory would inspire the continent before next year's World Cup in South Africa, and also help African teams lose the label of being physically strong but tactically weak.

"This is a wonderful historic event for Africa. Now Africans can believe in themselves that they can do it," Tetteh said. "We've shown them the way. Africa will surely have a lot of hope and confidence (at the World Cup) that they can do it like we did here."

Ghana became the first African nation to win the Under-20 event, adding to previous age-restricted victories by Nigeria in the Olympic Games and Under-17 World Cup, and Cameroon's Olympic title. At senior World Cups, African nations had twice just missed a place in the semifinals: Senegal lost to Turkey in extra time in the 2002 quarterfinals, while England did the same to Cameroon in 1990. In the under-20s, Ghana previously lost finals to Brazil in 1993 and Argentina in 2001.

This year, however, free-scoring Ghana made its mark early in Egypt, thrashing England 4-0 in its second group game. The west Africans scored 16 times, with half of those goals coming from top tournament scorer Dominic Adiyiah.

"This is the first trophy (for Africa) in this tournament. For so many years African teams did not get to this level. Now we have this today, we are very proud and our nation and Africa are very proud of us," Adiyiah said.

"I am lost for words."

Friday's match finished 0-0 after extra time.

Ghana's Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu fired in the winning penalty to make it 4-3 and seal the defeat of the four-time champions. His goal set off wild scenes of jubilation by Ghana's players and staff, and their fans among the 68,000-strong crowd. Agyemang-Badu peeled off his shirt and thumped his chest as Brazil's dejected players fell to the turf in disbelief.

Coach Tetteh said he believed the win would give confidence to Ghana's senior team which was Africa's best team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and has already qualified for 2010. He said several members of his youth squad were likely to eventually star at the senior level.

"Definitely it will help us in the World Cup," he said. "Ghana will be a team to watch in South Africa."

Hungary won third place at the tournament, beating Costa Rica in another penalty shootout after their match finished 1-1. Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi saved straight three penalty kicks. Colombia will host the next U-20 World Cup in 2011.