Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ghana Wins World Cup ... Under-20 Version

An African team wins a major FIFA competition staged in Africa, defeating Brazil in the final ...

Supporters of African soccer have to hope that what happened today, in Egypt, in the under-20 tournament, can be replicated in South Africa at the Big Boy World Cup in 2010.

Ghana defeated Brazil in a shootout to win the under-20 world championship. Brazil missed its final three attempts shots, and Ghana won 4-3 after six pairs of players walked up to the penalty spot.

African soccer has often been the wild card of global football.

I'm thinking of Senegal and its 1-0 defeat over defending champion France at the 2002 World Cup ... and Nigeria 3-2 over Spain at the 1998 World Cup ... and Cameroon 1-0 over defending champion Argetnina at the 1990 World Cup -- plus Cameroon's advance to the quarterfinals before it lost 3-2 to England in extra time.

African teams, however, rarely have been able to sustain their momentum, and never have been considered serious threats to go deep into the World Cup.

That may change next year and for one obvious reason -- the World Cup will be played in Africa for the first time.

Evidence of a "home continent advange" is extensive. All of the championships won by European sides have been won on the European continent. Argentina and Uruguay each won their two championships in the New World.

South Korea reached the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, a singular achievement for the country's team, when it was the co-host of the tournament, along with Japan.

So, Africa's time may be coming. Soon.

I am on record, on this blog, as having predicted an African team will make the semifinals at South Africa.

When I wrote that, I might have been thinking of Cote d'Ivoire. Now we may have to include Ghana in our "potential semifinalist" thinking. Playing at "home" is a big advantage, and when you already have a good side ...
Read more!