On the day that their country was celebrating the 64th Independence Day, Ghana’s Black Satellites delivered the ultimate gift, wrapped up in the form of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title after a 2-0 win over debutants Uganda in the final in Nouakchott on Saturday.
Skipper Daniel Afriyie led from the front, and had a military salute dance to celebrate on each occasion, as Ghana clinched the fourth Under-20 continental title, and a first since their last conquest in 2009.
The Black Satellites replicated the same score-line the two countries posted when they last met in a continental final, this being in the 1978 senior Cup of Nations. By design or coincidence, it was also another Afriyie, this time Opoku, who scored twice for the senior Ghanaians.
-Ghana leading at halftime
Ghana went to the break a goal to the good, and deservedly so after coming off an early scare to score through Afriyie. Uganda were faster off the blocks and should have scored after three minutes when a long ball caught the run of Derrick Kakooza, but his lob over the keeper went over.
Almost immediately, Uganda had another chance with Isma Mugulusi’s grass cutter going wide.
But after dodging the bullet twice, the Ghanaians woke from their slumber.
They had the woodwork denying them twice in succession off an Abdul Fatawu Issahaku corner. First, Percious Boah’s connection came off the bar and from the rebound, Nathaniel Adjei also sent a shot straight against the frame of goal.
The Ugandans were jittery in defending set pieces and the Ghana side constantly sought out corners but couldn’t stretch the lead further. Fatawu tried to open up the deadlock with a well taken freekick from distance, but Jack Komakech had it covered.
The Ugandans ultimately faltered on a set-piece, Afriyie sneaking in at the near post to flick in a header off Fatawu’s corner.
It was just the goal they needed as they played with more confidence and Uganda looked stunned as they panicked on possession and for some moments, forgot their ball playing nature.
Ghana took the opportunity to pin them on their backs and they had another go at goal in the 31st minute but Patrick Mensah’s low drive from 20 yards out was well saved by the keeper.
The Black Satellites needed just five minutes into the second half to dent any Ugandan hopes of a comeback, Afriyie completing his brace.
Fatawu pinched the ball off Steven Sserwadda in midfield before playing Boah out wide, the striker cutting back a cross into the box which his captain delightfully tapped into an empty net.
Four minutes on the turn, Sserwadda had an opportunity to atone for his error when Mugulusi’s cross from the right found him unmarked inside the box, but he hooked his header over the bar.
Uganda coach Morley Byekwaso went for a change in formation, Ivan Bogere and Samuel Senyonjo coming on for the off color Richard Basangwa and Ivan Asaba. With the change, Senyonjo joined Kakooza upfront for a twin-striking option.
Bogere was lively after coming on and he should have had a goal to his name in the 70th minute when the ball graciously landed on him inside the box, but his shot on the turn was too week, keeper Danlad Ibrahim collecting with ease.
Uganda kept the hunt for the two goals, but couldn’t crack to score with Ghana seeing out the result for a jubilant end to a happy Independence Day.
What they said:
Ghana coach Abdul Karim Zito
We came into this tournament as champions from WAFU B and we promised Ghanaians we are coming to perform, and take the ultimate. Before this match, I said the only thing I can do for my President on the day Ghanaians are celebrating Independence is to win this title.
We used that as a motivation and won. Uganda deserve praise because they are a very good team, but today, we were the better side.
Uganda coach Morley Byekwaso
Today our boys didn’t really use their chances and we were a bit nervous. Our strategy was to play very fast in opening minutes but when we missed an early chance and noting that we were playing against an experienced team like Ghana, they hurt us when they had the chance.
I am proud of my players despite the result today. I think we have shown a positive image of Ugandan football and as a coach too, I feel proud to have led the team to the final.