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General News of Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Fabin confident despite fitness concerns

Having booked qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later this year, head coach of Ghana’s Under-17 team, the Black Starlets, Paa Kwesi Fabin, has redirected his focus to winning the continental version of the competition being hosted by Gabon.

But a day more to attempting the next hurdle to the finale, bouts of malaria and a few knocks have plunged the team into a fitness quagmire.

Reports emerging from the Starlets camp indicate that over five players and the coach are down with malaria and have to a large extent affected preparation for the semi final clash against Niger tomorrow at Stade Port Gentil.

Winger Edmund Ako-Mensah, left-back Gideon Acquah, Abdul Razak Yusif, Isaac Antah and Faisal Osman were all knocked down by malaria after the team left Port Gentil to play the final group game against Guinea who held the Starlets to a pulsating goalless draw encounter at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.

The team has since returned to their favourite Port-Gentil to prepare against the Nigerians who finished as group ‘A’ runners up with five points after beating Gabon and holding Ghana and the Young Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

The draw has been the only blemish on an otherwise impressive showing of the Black Starlets who started the campaign with a 4-0 and 5-0 annihilation of Cameroon and Gabon in the opening group games at Port Gentil.

But it appears the current fitness of the players could hinder the smooth progression following the fitness of the five players that remains very instrumental for the team.

In a way, the situation, he said, contributed to the performance churned out by the team on Saturday as some players featured with knocks while others were just not well enough.

“Our display was lacking in some areas as six of my players were hit by malaria. However, when I noticed Guinea were showing some quality in the game, I brought on two players to reinforce the team and this neutralised any possible threats by the Guineans. They prepared well against our team and I think they got what they wanted-a point from this match,” Paa Kwesi Fabin said in his post match reaction.

Despite the gloomy picture, Fabin harbours some amount of hope to see his players recover on time to train today for tomorrow’s game which he said would guarantee the path for the grand finale.

“We are looking forward for the final but we know we have to overcome the Nigerian test tomorrow so for now out focus in on them. They are not bad side at all. From the little we have seen about them, we are convinced we are going into another tough battle just like what Guinea offered.”

“Physically, they are endowed and are very athletic as well so we know they would pose a lot of problems for us but I believe we have the men capable of dealing with them. My only concern is their state of health. If they recover well and on time, we would have no problems dealing with them.”

That notwithstanding, Fabin believes he has very competent personnel on the bench who can fit into their shoes well and deliver when given the chance.

Commenting on the continent’s chances at the global showpiece in the absence of big nations such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire etc, the Starlets trainer was convinced that Africa would be well represented at the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

He described the Le Syli Cadets as an exciting prospect after holding Ghana to a goalless draw to secure the semi-final spot, adding his delight with the standard exhibited by teams so far at the Total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017.

“African football has a bright future. The two teams (Ghana and Guinea) came here to display good football and the fans saw how much effort the players put in to score goals because we both gave a good account of ourselves.”

Africa lead the all-time record chart at the U-17 level with Nigeria and Ghana hauling an impressive seven trophies and India 2017 will be Black Starlets’ ninth appearance for a competition they won in 1991 in Italy and 1995 in Ecuador.

It would be fourth appearance for the Les Syli Cadet whose best performance was fourth place finish at the maiden U-16 tournament in China.

Mali will meet Guinea in one of the Semi-finals of the Total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 after they white washed Angola 6-1 in their final Group B match played on Sunday at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.

The Malians will keep a date with their West African familiar foes at the same venue tomorrow in a repeat of the 2015 semi-final match won 2-1 by Les Aiglonnets (Malians) on their way to their first continental crown following a 2-0 win over South Africa in the final.

At Gabon 2017, Mali started the tournament on a slow note as they were held goalless by newcomers Tanzania in their opening match but rebounded with with a 2-1 win over Niger and completed their section with that flattering score line against Angola to finish on top the group with seven points from their matches.