It is common knowledge in Ghana that many people (especially government employees) finish work early on Fridays. Some say it is because these people usually travel to destinations outside Accra to attend funerals and other functions in their hometown. Well, last Friday many people, government and non-government workers alike, left their workplaces early to catch the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup between the Black Satellites of Ghana and their Brazilian counterparts.
The venue for the game was the Cairo International Stadium, and kick-off was scheduled for 6pm. At 5pm the usual heavy Friday rush-hour traffic in Accra was absent. Evidently, many Ghanaians had already reached home before kick-off. The people who lived too far away to reach home in time for the game chose to watch it in the numerous pubs and sporting bars in town.
The match itself proved to be a nervy encounter. The first 30 minutes of the game proved tough for the Black Satellites, who chose to weather the persistent attacks of the Samba Boys. Things took a bad turn for the Ghanaians when one of the defenders was harshly sent off in the 37th minute for a tackle that, at worst, should have attracted a yellow card. The odds seemed stacked against the Satellites, but they managed to hold on till the end of the first half.
After the break, the Brazilians continued attacking. The Satellites, down by a man, sat back and soaked up the pressure in wonderful fashion. Through grit and unbelievable determination, the Ghanaians managed to hold on till the referee blew to signal the end of 90 minutes of regular play, forcing the game in 30 minutes of extra time. However, extra time was still not enough to break the deadlock, so the match had to be decided by penalty shootouts.
In a pulsating mixture of power, placement, goalkeeping brilliance, and a touch of fate, the Black Satellites won the penalties by 4 to 3, launching Ghana—fresh off another qualification to the World Cup in South Africa— into ecstasy. When the final swords were sheathed, Ghana striker Dominic Adiyah was adjudged the most valuable player of the tournament, and received the golden ball award. Adiyah was also the competition’s highest scorer, with 8 goals, thus, he also collected the golden boot award. Ghana captain, Andre “Dede” Ayew, hoisted the trophy high to rapturous applause from the 67,814 fans (most of who cheered on the Ghanaians throughout the entire game) in the grand stadium.
This victory made Ghana the first African country to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup in its 32-year history. Incidentally, this was the very first time the competition was held in Africa, and the superstitious pundits of the game believe this could be an auspicious harbinger ahead of next year’s World Cup in South Africa, the first one to be held in Africa.