FIFA Under-20 World Cup: Aboagye and Acheampong Inspire Ghana to Semifinals

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FIFA Under-20 World Cup: Aboagye and Acheampong Inspire Ghana to Semifinals

Youth football competitions often tend to provide excitement in abundance, as talented young players go head-to-head without the tactical discipline that comes with experience.

The 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup is proving no different, with both Ghana and Iraq coming through marathon quarterfinal fixtures Sunday night.

For Iraq, the achievement is somewhat unbelievable. This is a team of players who would have yet to see their 10th birthday at the outbreak of war, yet they have beaten the likes of Chile, Paraguay and now South Korea en route to the semifinals.

A thrilling 3-3 draw with Asian qualifying champions South Korea led to a penalty shootout, with goalkeeper and captain Mohammed Hameed making himself the hero of the hour with a save on Lee Gwanghun to send his side into the semifinals where they will now meet Uruguay.

The later match between Chile and Ghana, though, was even better, as two impressive sides played out an enthralling encounter in Istanbul.

Ghana may have eventually emerged as winners, thanks in part to their outstanding fitness levels, but were twice forced to come from behind against a Chilean side who had looked better for long periods.

The Black Satellites' belief, though, was noticeable. Even when falling behind to a wonderful header from Manchester United's Angelo Henriquez in extra time, they continued to look for a route back into the game.

That route, for both equalising goals, came courtesy of the golden feet of 18-year-old Clifford Aboagye (pictured).

The Udinese-owned starlet has faced some criticism after recent games but proved himself on this occasion.

Flashy footwork, impressive close control and an eye for a pass were the root of both assists and such natural dexterity is not easily taught.

He is not alone, though, in showing that Ghana has some creative players of note. While 16-year-old Moses Odjer deserves credit for his showings on the right of midfield, it was left winger Frank Acheampong who also came to the fore with two assists.

While his first assist, a regulation cross for Odjer to chest down and volley home, was fairly standard, his second was outstanding.

The Anderlecht player's quality of left-footed delivery had been evident all night, but with the game in injury time of extra time, he ventured to the right flank and offered the match-winning contribution.

With the ball bouncing up, he headed it past his marker and showed a burst of pace to stop the ball drifting out, before lobbing a cross to the awaiting Ebenezer Assifuah whose header crept home.

Acheampong is nicknamed "Messi" in his homeland for his trickery and left-footed preference, and while that may be an exaggeration, he is a real talent.

Interestingly, the 19-year-old has taken an unusual route to European football by first moving to Thailand where he excelled in the Asian Champions League with Buriram United.

Ghana will face France midweek in a match that will see them taking on the tournament favourites.

They may lack the top-level experience of Les Bleuets, but there is enough spirit and indeed raw talent among this side to suggest they should not be written off.

Four sides remain from four different continents, as the Under-20 World Cup serves as a real demonstration of the increasing spread of high quality footballing talent around the globe.

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