Black Satellites fly African flag at U20 World Cup

Posted by Firdose Moonda

Very superstitious: Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh in his lucky shirt.GettyImagesVery superstitious: Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh in his lucky shirt.

Ghana's Black Satellites will have Africa's attention on Wednesday as they attempt to repeat their 2009 success and advance to the final of the Under-20 World Cup. Ebenezer Assifuah is one of the players to watch, but many eyes will turn to the touchline where Sellas Tetteh will bank on something more than form to see his team through - superstition.

The coach - like Zambia's Herve Renard, who chose a crisp white shirt for Chipolopolo's 2012 African Cup of Nations campaign - has his own favoured outfit. Notably, it's been through a few changes since he last paraded it.

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In Egypt, Tetteh wore a workmanlike shade of beige-brown. He rolled the sleeves up above the elbows and wore the shirt at every match the Ghana U20s played. In Turkey this time, the emperor wanted new clothes and donned a pale blue number for the first two matches. The Black Satellites lost both.

Tetteh must have consulted with a fashionista because he arrived at their group match against the USA wearing a much more colourful get-up. He appeared in a golf shirt with orange, white and grey-brown stripes as Ghana racked up a 4-1 win to ensure they qualified for the round of 16.

He has since worn the preferred shirt for their matches against Portugal and Chile, and each time Ghana have responded well. Of course, the coach's outfit has nothing to do with how the team performs, but Tetteh is a man who places value in symbols and there's one more he can go on.

In 2009, Ghana sailed through the group stage before things got tougher at the business end. So far, it has been the opposite. They squeaked through to the knockouts after surprisingly disappointing showings early on, but have shown immense temperament.

In both must-win matches, Ghana have come from behind, beating Portugal 2-1 and Chile 4-3 in the dying seconds of extra time. Tettah will hope things get easier against France.

Ghana have already met Les Bleuets in this competition and have been soundly defeated by them. They know what Pierre Mankowski's side are capable of. They would have seen them dump on the hosts of the tournament and put four goals past Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals. They are aware of the threat of Arsenal's new signing Yaya Sanogo and Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and they would have time to devise plans against them.

But as much as France have progressed in this tournament, so have Ghana. They are in sensational form and have displayed a resilience that is beyond compare. They play an attractive brand of football, combining speed and skill especially well in attack.

Against Chile, Ghana had more than 40 shots on goal. Sometimes the final touch eluded them, but most of the time they forced the Chilean keeper into action. The defence was fairly tight and the midfield highly innovative as they displayed a distinct lack of fear. Ghana have showed they have the self-belief and the calibre of players to beat France.

The Black Satellites showed some signs of indiscipline against Chile, and for that they will suffer in the semifinal. Ghana will be without captain Lawrence Lartey, defender Joseph Attamah and midfielder Moses Odjer, who all picked up yellow cards in the last eight. But there are some able replacements in Baba Mensah, Alfred Duncan, Michael Anaba and Kennedy Ashia.

The depth in the squad will be a comfort to Tetteh, especially as Ghana's reputation of having the best youth structure on the continent has been enhanced through this tournament. He picked only five European-based players in his squad, choosing instead to reward those like Assifuah who are doing the hard years in the domestic league.

Like Stephen Keshi of Nigeria, who also believes in advancing the cause of locally based players, Tetteh believes he gets the best out of players who are working hard at home. "They are hungrier to play. And it's good for our development as it encourages local players in the country too," Tetteh said. So far that decision has paid off and bodes well for the future of Ghana's national team too.

Before the hopefuls in Turkey can aim to mature from Satellites into Stars, they have a job to do. Again, Ghana are Africa's last hope at a World Cup, and again, how well they do will reflect on the state of football on the continent as a whole. Tetteh, in whatever clothes he wants to wear, knows that is no small responsibility.

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