Highly fancied Cameroon will take on Ghana in the first quarter-final of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Mauritania 2021, on Thursday at the Stade Olympique in Nouakchott in what is expected to be an explosive clash.
Ghana who are playing in their 12th AFCON Under-20 tournament are seeking their fourth title and a first since 2009 while Cameroon who are playing their 10th tournament are seeking a second trophy and a first in 26 years.
A game of wit, strength and talent, a fixture between the senior sides of these two countries has always been explosive and nothing less is expected when their Under-20 teams clash for a place in the semi-finals.
Cameroon qualified to the last eight as the only team with a 100pc record, having won all their matches in the group phase. They beat hosts Mauritania and Uganda by a solitary goal, before thrashing Mozambique 4-1 in their final Group A match.
They collected all nine points while conceding only one goal, an 85th-minute strike from Lorenzoni in their win over Mozambique.
Ghana’s Black Satellites on the other end came through as one of the best two third-placed teams, having finished off with four points. They won 4-0 against Tanzania before drawing 0-0 with group winners Morocco, but it was their final day 2-1 loss at the hands of Gambia that dipped them to third in the standings.
Both teams play a fast-paced kind of game and a full-throttle display of attack is expected in Nouakchott on Thursday. Cameroon have the slight advantage of having had an extra day of rest compared to Ghana, while they will be on the same ground they have played their group matches as opposed to Ghana who have travelled from Nouadhibou.
But the Ghanaians will look to use the motivation and lessons from their loss to Gambia as a bouncing pad to head into the Cameroon game with a renewed fighting spirit. The two goals they conceded against the Young Scorpions of Gambia were the first they let in at the tournament.
Players to watch:
Ghana’s 16-year-old midfielder Abdul Fatawu Issahaku has been a revelation for the Black Satellites at the tournament and his two stunning goals and one man of the match performance have placed him as one of the finest players in their squad.
Fatawu not only possesses good vision in midfield to pick outruns and make defense splitting passes but also has an eye for goal, especially from distance. He will be one of the players that Ghana will be looking on to if they are to slit open a tight Cameroonian defense.
Burly forward Percious Boah, who is also on two goals so far will also be one to watch out for in the match.
Cameroonian attacker Sunday Jang Junior scored the two goals that earned Cameroon a place in the last eight from the victories against Uganda and Mauritania. He was rested in the final match against Mozambique also due to the fact that he had a knock on his ankle.
He has trained well with the rest of the young Indomitable Lions over the past three days and is once again expected to lead the line of attack against Ghana.
Coach Christophe Ousmanou however will be spoilt for choice in attack especially after the performance against Mozambique with Etienne Eto’o scoring a brace and making one assist in a man of the match performance to give a case for himself to start the tie. Etienne had seen off both opening matches on the bench.
Midfielder Fidel Bryce Ambina has also been key for Cameroon, providing a good shield to the backline and initiating moves upfront for his side and will also be a key part of the game plan on Thursday, especially as far as limiting Fatawu’s influence of the game.
What they said:
Ghana coach Abdul Karim Zito:
Anytime Ghana plays Cameroon, it is not an easy match for both teams and it will be very interesting tomorrow. It will be an explosive match because we both want to qualify. It is going to be 11 versus 11 on the pitch and there is no one with an advantage.
We have made a lot of changes from the game against Gambia. Sometimes it is good to lose because it awakens you. Now the players know that they can be beaten and they are ready, their objective is to win the game.
We have four players who will be missing through injury (Eric Appiah, Sulemana Mohamed, Aloma Benjamin and Sampson Agyapong). We will miss them but we have to go in and fight for victory.
Ghana goalkeeper Ibrahim Danlad:
Whenever Ghana meets Cameroon it is always like a World Cup final between both teams. We know that this is a quarter-final and it will be a tough match, but we are ready to go in fully and give our all for victory. Our aim is to get to the semis and then fight for a medal.
We lost the game against Gambia but as players, we came back together and talked, looked at the mistakes that we made and we have worked on them from training and ready for this huge match.
Cameroon Coach Ousmanou Christophe
Ghana is a big football nation, and so are we. We know that this game will be a very difficult one but the players are prepared well. We have been ready since the first day we came here, to tackle each match by match.
We know that this will be a tough one but we will go out to get a win.
I am proud to have a very offensive team and knowing that each of the strikers I have in the team can score whether they start or come from the bench. The most important thing for us however is to go out tomorrow and win.
Cameroon striker Kevin Prince Milla
Ghana have qualified for the quarter-finals and this shows they are a good team as well. We will do our best to win the match and we have prepared well for it. We know they are a strong team but we are focused to play in the best way possible and win. Just like it is when the senior teams meet, this will be a very tough and competitive match.