Shorn of their best player, further — even if only temporarily – robbed of other key personnel and general structure by fitness issues, denied a smooth pre-tournament program, and 3-0 down to the hosts by half-time, Ghana’s Black Princesses looked well-beaten and seemingly hopeless last Sunday in Vannes on a weekend when their male counterparts tore neighbors Benin apart back home.
Only that they weren’t . . . hopeless, at least. France still clung to their three-goal advantage by full-time of their opening Fifa U-20 Women’s World Cup fixture, yes, but the Ghanaians’ second half showing suggested their confidence had been given quite a boost by head coach Yussif Basigi during a much-needed break. That psychological shot may not have altered their fate, but the scoreboard — the Ghanaian side, anyway — looked better for it: 4-1.
That solitary goal, netted by Sandra Owusu-Ansah in the 58th minute, didn’t mean much in the final analysis, but it did suggest this is a Ghana team which won’t go down without a fight. Tricky Group A gets even tougher with another game at the Stade de la Rabine on Wednesday against the Netherlands, victors over New Zealand and second on the table, but Ghana wouldn’t be daunted.
It’s certainly not going to be the easiest of the Princesses’ group games — the third against Oceanian powerhouse New Zealand in Concarneau, another commune of Brittany, likely is — and they’d need to dig deep for the test. Bleak as things may appear at present, the task isn’t beyond Ghana; 90-odd minutes of the spirited attitude they displayed after recess versus France — minus the minor, costly lapse in concentration at the very end that widened the margin — and some improved play could sort it out.
They’d require tons of guts, not just to save their own skin and sustain the chances of making it past the competition’s group stage for the first time in five attempts, but also to inspire the revival all of Ghana football — of which the Princesses are but a little section — needs right now.
Part of the reason why the lasses came into the tournament so disadvantaged is the chaos and lifelessness which currently envelopes the Ghanaian game as fallout from ace undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ two-month-old ‘Number 12’ exposé on corruption. That revelation, prompting a freeze of football activity declared by the State ever since, has brought the whole nation to its knees, and recovery may take quite a while — never mind the fullness of it ever being achieved.
The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel barely flickers, but if there’s one in sight, the Princesses — the first national side to participate in a major tournament post-June 6 — are charged to show the way and drag it into focus. Should they successfully beat these seemingly overwhelming odds, surely Ghana football in its entirety can, too, in the larger picture.
And, really, who says they can’t?