The quest to make a successive sixth appearance at a global youth tournament comes with its own pressure, a headache that can have a negative on a coach or the main actors on the pitch.
Ghana is chasing a sixth consecutive appearance at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The Black Princesses made their first appearance in 2010 in Germany, and have gone ahead to participate in the subsequent five tournaments (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018).
For head coach Ben Fokuo, it is understandable to be under some form of pressure from his employers, media and the general public. Definitely, president of the Ghana Football Association, Kurt E.S Okraku, wouldn’t want to be reminded as the leader that broke the chain of uninterrupted appearances by the Princesses at the global championship.
However, they have failed to get past the group stages in all editions. Ghana has qualified for five out of the nine previous editions of the competition and there is general expectation of them to progress to break the hoodoo when they show up at Costa Rica. But before that, they must beat Ethiopia in a two-legged affair.
This means Fokuo must work hard to prove his critics wrong because the GFA came under fire when he was appointed. His appointment came as a surprise, replacing the much adoredYusif Basigi, who is considered a colossus of the women’s game.
Fokuo has swat aside any form of pressure on him to qualify.“No! I am not under pressure. The team has always qualified for the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup and this will be the sixth time. I am not under pressure because I know we will qualify. I know that the girls will play well and prove themselves. I know they will do it and make that history for us.”
“I have been to previous FIFA Women’s World Cups but not as the head coach,” said Fokuo, who is hoping to make his bow in Costa Rica. He served assistant to the Black Maidens (2004, 2014-2016), Black Queens (2006, 2010) and the Black Princesses (2007, 2010, 2011-2012). Contrastingly, he has no experience at even club level with a women’s team.
Ghana overcame Uganda at the fourth round 7-1 aggregate score line to book their place with Ethiopia. Despite the wide margin victory, Fokuo admits the team needs to improve for their clash against the Ethiopians.
“We made mistakes and we have to go back and correct those mistakes. We are meeting Ethiopia next so we need to improve our performance in order to beat them.”
The captain of the Princesses is Evelyn Badu, who hugged the headlines last November, as the heroine of the Hasaacas Ladiesteam that reached the final of the maiden CAF Women’s Champions League in Cairo. She scooped the Best Player of the Tournament and Golden Boot after scoring five goals.
“The world is expecting so much from me but I whatever I am doing with my team (U20 national team), I think it is the best. As long as we are winning, I think it is the most important thing.It is a privilege for me to be the captain of this team and also leading the team qualify for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.”
Sixteen (16) teams will qualify for the final tournament including host, Costa Rica, with two from Africa.
Nigeria is the most successful African team. They have qualified for all the previous nine editions of the tournament. They were runners-up in 2010 and 2014 but the overall, the most successful teams are the United of America and Germany with three titles apiece.
By: Ayishatu Zakaria Ali