Posted On Sunday, 14th April 2013
Ghana’s Black Starlets will begin their campaign at the Africa U-17 Championships on Sunday with they face a stiff challenge against their perennial rivals, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria.
The Black Starlets go into the competition fully confident that they can win the title having been boosted by their impressive pre-tournament form with a squad free of age-cheating fears after MRI tests.
The Ghanaians hammered Swiss second division side FC Goussau 10-0 then beat Navara U-20 side 6-2 before going down to the first team of Italian Serie A side Sampdoria 3-2.
With players mainly selected from academies, the Black Starlets are poised for victory against a Nigerian side depleted by the expulsion of three players who were caught by CAF for age cheating.
Nigeria’s participation has been blighted by news of the expulsion of three of its players by CAF over age-cheating, a cancer which has proved to be cancerous in the country’s participation in age-group competitions over the years.
MRI test, which can accurately determine the ages of players, conducted on all players in the tournament showed that two Nigerian defenders and a striker were above the age limit for the competition.
The affected players are Wilfred Onyinye Ndidi (Nath FC, Lagos), Ibrahim Abdullahi (Sardauna Academy, Kano) and Emmanuel Asadu (Amuneke Academy) .
Their omission from the tournament has now reduced the Under 17 squad to 18 players after they had set up a training camp at Qatar’s Aspire Academy to prepare the Eaglets for the championship.
The team played two friendly matches during their time in the country and scored a convincing 7-1 victory against the Aspire U-18 side before beating Al Sadd, for whom former Spanish international Raul Gonzalez plays.
Coach Manu Garba has said ahead of the tie against the Starlets that: “We have played many matches against soccer academies and amateur teams with impressive results, but the way the players would respond against Ghana on Sunday in our first match will determine how far they are ready for the task ahead of us.”
Coach Garba, who was part of the coaching staff that won the 2007 African Under-17 Championship in Togo and FIFA World Cup in the same year in Korea, believes that this present team are stronger than the 2007 team that won the World Cup in Korea.
A total of eight teams will compete in the 10th edition of the tourney that will be held in the cities of Casablanca and Marrakech, with the 67,000-seater Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca hosting Group A and Stade de Marrakech hosting teams in Group B, with plenty at stake.
Not only will the winner be crowned the African champion, but the four semi-finalists will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup that will hold in the United Arab Emirates October/November.