Sports Features of Friday, 21 June 2013

Source: Christopher Opoku

Can Sellas Tetteh conquer the world again with his ‘Argonauts’?

Four years after Sellas Tetteh led Ghana’s national Under 20 team, the Black Satellites, to rule the world; he is at it again, this time taking the 2013 generation to Turkey to take on the World.

The search for the ‘Golden Fleece’ begins this afternoon in Istanbul against a talented France side which will be anchored by Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba in the middle.

Indeed, Ghana’s group looks tough, with Spain and the United States as other members of the Group, but Tetteh, who will tell you that he has improved as a coach in the four years since his victory in Egypt, would want nothing less.

After all, Ghana’s opening match in 2009 saw the Satellites go behind against Uzbekhistan, before goals from Ransford Osei and Dominic Adiyiah secured the points.

So such a battle would hold no fears for Ghana. For the records, the last time both sides met in the Group phase of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup was in Argentina in 2001, where a Ghana side featuring the likes of Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien, Derek Boateng and John Mensah amongst others battled to a 0-0 draw with a French side led by Djibril Cisse in attack.

Tetteh has selected a strong looking side with a few adjustments from the team that won silver at the 2013 African Youth Soccer Championships in Algeria. The likes of Baba Abdul Rahman and Richmond Boakye Yiadom will provide added experience after a stint in the camp of the Black Stars during the recent 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Anderlecht’s Frank Acheampong and Inter Milan’s Alfred Duncan will also bring something to the team.

Chelsea reserve team captain Daniel Pappoe was to have been part of the squad, but an unfortunate injury has ruled him out. The good thing is that Baba Mensah, who was dropped initially, would get back into the squad and because he was in Algeria, not much damage is done.

As a result, the ‘Argonauts’ will once again comprise mainly of locally based players who excelled in Algeria with the likes of team captain Lawrence Lartey, midfielders Moses Odjer, Seidu Salifu and Clifford Aboagye, with star strikers Ebenezer Assifuah and Francis Narh in tow.

The supporting cast comprises of Asante Kotoko midfielder Michael Anaba, Liberty Professionals goal scoring midfielder Kennedy Ashia, with Richmond Nketia and Jeremiah Arkorful, as well as Joseph Attamah Larweh providing cover.

What Tetteh has going for him is that he has been able to instill confidence in the players and as a result, they will be afraid of no one when the tournament starts.

Secondly, traditionally the African terrain normally becomes more difficult to compete in because of the plethora of talented sides on the continent and for the Satellites to have come through that is a very positive sign indeed.

Again, the quietly effective leadership provided by the team’s management committee chairman George Afriyie should stand the Satellites in good stead.

Just like in Algeria, Afriyie has sensibly refrained from making any big predictions regarding the team in Turkey and his mantra has always been to take one game at a time. That would go a long way towards helping the boys to focus. Difficult groups always seem to bring out the best in Ghana teams and this group will severely test the Black Satellites.

Fortunately Tetteh has been there before and done it, especially when he led a 10-man Satellites team to beat Brazil on penalties in the 2009 final in Egypt.

So in terms of mental preparation, the current team does not have too much to worry about. Add the extra incentive of landing juicy foreign contracts outside Ghana and you have a bunch of very determined players who would stop at nothing to not only achieve laurels for Ghana, but also to create such opportunities for themselves.

It will be difficult to determine whether or not Sellas Tetteh and his team, like Jason and the Argonauts before him, will eventually take away the Golden Fleece, but even though the journey would be extremely hazardous, Ghana has as good a chance as any of making a very positive impression on the tournament.

Ghana has been to the tournament in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2009 and every time, the Black Satellites has at least made it to the semifinals. That is certainly a good omen, but a lot is down to the team itself.

As the ship sets sail today, it is hoped that the Black Satellites clear the hurdles along the way to make not only Ghana, but Africa proud once again.