Ghana U-20 vs. Chile U-20 (Sunday, June 7, 2:00 p.m. ET)
The finest young footballing talent on the planet will battle it out this weekend as the FIFA U-20 World Cup reaches the quarter-final stage. In the final last-eight matchup, the Black Starlets of Ghana go head-to-head with South American heavyweights Chile.
Both sides were impressive in winning their second-round matches, and this contest promises to be one of the most hotly contested of the four quarter-finals.
The pair did well to overcome tough opposition, and both will harbour aspirations of going all the way to claim the prestigious prize.
Route to the Quarter-Final
Placed in the horrendously tough "Group of Death" with tournament favourites France and Spain, as well as the United States, Ghana’s competition began with a genuine baptism of fire.
Ultimately they were lucky to qualify as one of the best four third-place teams.
With the United States having sneaked a draw against France, the Black Starlets knew that they had to beat the U.S. in their last match to progress.
They didn’t disappoint, spanking their opposition, 4-1.
Despite losing their two previous games, the Ghanaians were at least impressive against much-fancied Spain, when they were narrowly defeated, 1-0.
The round of the last 16 proved equally as taxing as the group stage, and Ghana were paired with Portugal, who themselves had cruised through Group B.
Having taken the lead through Kennedy Ashia, the Black Starlets were pinned back by two goals…with just over 10 minutes to play, they looked to be heading out.
A late rally saw them through, and goals from Michael Anaba and wonderkid Richmond Boakye turned a tantalising tie back in the Ghanaians favour—seeing them through to the quarter-final.
Chile struggled in front of goal in the group stage. They managed only four goals, with only two other qualified teams scoring fewer.
They advanced from Group E despite being defeated by eventual group winners Iraq in Antalya. Their progression came on the back of a late victory against Egypt and a hard-fought draw with the English.
Against Croatia in the second round, their lack of a cutting edge became apparent once more. Heading into the last 10 minutes of the tie, the two teams were still deadlocked, with Chile unable to break down their stubborn opponents.
Nicky Castillo made the most of an opportunity that came his way with nine to play before the unfortunate Jozo Simunovic sent the ball past his own keeper four minutes later.
It was a killer blow for the Croats and proved enough to see Chile through into the quarter-final.
There aren’t many nations that can boast Ghana’s pedigree when it comes to the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
They claimed fourth place in 1997, sandwiched between two lost finals (in 1993 and 2001). They finally won the competition in 2009, beating Brazil on penalties in Cairo—becoming the first African nation to claim the title.
The senior side constantly looks to the youth setup to furnish their ranks, and this gives constant encouragement and incentives for the youngsters populating the U-20 side.
The Black Starlets will realise once again the benefit of underage tournaments such as this one.
A focus on youth is matched in their opposition for this clash; La Rojita are another side who put great stock in the development and success of their youth sides.
The U-20 team finished in fourth place on home soil in 1987 before going one better in 2007, claiming the bronze medal.
Who will advance from the fourth U-20 quarter-final?
Ghana are gently, impressively growing into this competition and must be taken seriously.
Aside from their opening defeat against a very impressive French side, they have done very little wrong in this competition, only narrowly losing to Spain and then showing their class against the U.S.A.
Against Portugal their explosive talent was once again on display, although it was their resolve and belief that most impressed me.
Their defence have looked more impressive as the tournament has worn on, and despite conceding two against the Portuguese, they became the only side against whom the lethal Bruma failed to score—a fact noted by my colleague Sam Tighe.
Forget underdogs, Ghana have tasted success in this competition before and know how to flourish in the latter stages of this tournament—they will prove testing opposition for Chile.
The South Americans have themselves been impressive and will offer a stern challenge for the Black Satellites.
Christian Bravo’s late winner in the opener against Egypt was a hugely important goal, and from that moment Chile have found the confidence to ally to their composure and class.
Even in hindsight, their defeat against Iraq isn’t so disappointing considering the Gulf side’s subsequent success in the competition.
Croatia were a big scalp, and Chile’s late rally will have given the side a sturdy platform to progress. The players will surely be backing themselves to beat Ghana.
I wrote in my prediction for the Ghana/Portugal game that whichever side emerged victorious in that clash must be considered among the competition favourites.
I stand by that forecast, and I am backing Ghana—buoyed by their terrific performance against the Portuguese—to break down Chile, while simultaneously keeping things tight at the back.
The game should be an exciting and pulsating encounter, and I am expecting the Black Starlets to pull off a 2-0 victory.
Ghana to Win, 2-0