Ghana’s Black Satellites will seek to conquer Africa on Saturday when they face the Hippos of Uganda in the final of the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Ghana are chasing triumph at this stage for the first time since they won in 2009. Clinching the title will be their fourth at the showpiece and standing in their way at the Olympic Stadium in Nouakchott is Uganda.
The tournament new boys are looking to make history by winning the title on their first time of asking. This is actually their second final Ina major football event since 1978 when their senior team lost to Ghana at the AFCON.
It will be all in or nothing for both sides for the ultimate crown in what promises to be a cracking finale.
Both Ghana and Uganda have shown grit and determination, at times a touch of luck, to find their way to the last match of the tournament. But all that will be forgotten and all attention, effort, blood and sweat thrown onto the green turf under the lights for a shot at the ultimate glory.
Ghana look favorites on paper and there will be pressure on Coach Karim Zito’s side. The weight on their shoulders is made heavier with huge expectation of delivering a title as a gift on Ghana’s independence day.
Uganda, who are making it to this stage for the first time stand the prospect of suffering from stage fright or becoming less tensed to deliver with the tournament minnows having overachiever so far.
The final game surely promises intrigue, drama and all action.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
The Ghanaians made it out of the group stages as one of the best two third placed teams after losing their last group match to Gambia to finish third in the group. They had beaten Tanzania and drawn against Morocco, and those two results were just but enough to push them into the quarters.
In the last eight, they matches up against Cameroon, one of the pre-tournament favorites. They came from a goal down in extra time to force out a 1-1 draw and win the tie on penalties to progress to the semis.
In the last four, they were matched up against Gambia, the same team that beat them 2-1 in the group stages. This time, they proved to have done their homework right and laid down a 1-0 revenge against the Young Scorpions to sail to the final.
The Ugandan Hippos finished second in Group A after victories over hosts Mauritania and Mozambique, their only loss of the tournament so far being against Cameroon.
In the quarter finals, they faced a tough Burkina Faso side and weathered the West African storm to win on penalties and sail to the semis.
They were unstoppable in the last eight, beating Tunisia emphatically 4-1 to announce themselves in the final with a thud.
What they said:
Ghana coach Abdul Karim Zito:
The fact that we have won this title before is in the past. Now we need to look at the present. We are keen to take this Cup and the biggest reason is because Ghanaian people trusted us and sent us here and it would only proper if we give them a gift especially on the day Ghana is celebrating its birthday.
In Africa now, there are no big names or small names. Each country is improving and we know Uganda will be a tough opponent. They beat Tunisia 4-1 and it was not luck. They played well and we will not underrate them.
Ghana striker Emmanuel Agyemang Duah:
We know that the likes of Dede Ayew made history for Ghana, but we are not relying on that. It is time for us in the current team to also write our names in the history of Ghana.
We are here for the ultimate and the greatest motivation is that we are playing on the day that Ghana is celebrating its independence. The attitude and motivation we come into the game with is very different because we want to win it for our motherland.
Uganda Hippos head coach Morley Byekwaso
It will be tough game because we will be playing a strong, tactical team with a lot of experience in this tournament, but we are ready to play. We have nothing to lose and we only need to play good, whoever plays well will take the day.
We need to have lots of tactical discipline because we know how strong and physical they are and how good they are on the ball. If we read the opponent right and prepare well for them, I know we will succeed.
Uganda captain Gavin Kizito
We are not under any pressure as a team and players coming into this match. We have played five games so far and we have done well. We need to just take it calm and as players we believe once we are fit we will be ready to face any challenge.
We are ready for the final and we know we will face a tough team but we will be all out to win.